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What is the importance of contact tracing?

contact tracing

Contact tracing is an essential public health tool for controlling the on-going pandemic. If applied properly, it can break the chain of transmission of COVID-19. The systemic application of contact tracing requires identifying, assessing, and managing people who have been exposed to the virus. The COVID-19 positive patient needs to be isolated and traced for the next fourteen days from the last point of exposure. In many U.S. states, contact tracing and rapid testing have effectively slowed the spread of COVID-19.


On July 23, the ‘Women Who Inspire at the Forefront of Healthcare’ webinar series featured three students from Northeastern. The panellists who have been working as contact tracers in Massachusetts from April offered insights on the importance of contact tracing. All of the three students or graduates from the Bouvé College of Health Sciences were in a conversation with Neil Maniar. He is a professor of Practice and Director of Northeastern’s Master of Public Health program who facilitated the discussion.


As the schools, colleges, and businesses intend to reopen in this fall, the panellists emphasised on the importance of contact tracing. Meredith Patterson, a care resource coordinator believed that the coordination between the healthcare resources and patients ensured safe isolation. She stressed the adequate resources of food, medication or housing, or mental health services.


Magda Pankowska and her colleague Cassandra Dechaine suggested rapid testing paired with rapid results virtually. They highlighted other public health concerns apart from responding to COVID-19. They have encountered language barriers, challenges in connecting people of different backgrounds, and managing anxious people awaiting their test results. Reaching out to certain communities, such as undocumented immigrants also turned out to be a challenge for them. The panellists think that diversifying the workforce with people from different backgrounds would help in addressing this issue of communication.


The webinar focuses on the voices and experiences of women in Bouvé College. Especially those who are working on the front lines of the public health crisis. Northeastern further pledges to come up with many inspiring stories and strategies through these webinars.


Rubena Bose