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UPMC official: COVID contact tracing continues

WILLIAMSPORT — Dr. Daniel Glunk, UPMC Susquehanna Region chief quality officer, alongside his colleagues have been working tirelessly to maintain contact tracing procedures in UPMC communities including UPMC Williamsport Hospital.

“The pandemic is here to stay,”Glunk said. “We are tracking everything and taking care of our patients who test positive through our labs. From infants to someone who was in their late 90s, the majority of the people we have traced have recovered safely at home. When you come into the hospital, we are prepared to take care of you as well.”

Contact tracing is done after a person receives positive COVID-19 results.

People who have been in direct contact with this COVID-19 positive person are then contacted by medical professionals who will guide them through the quarantine process.

They ask the COVID-19 positive person questions such as travel, contact with other positive cases, and more.

“This (contact tracing) isn’t new for COVID,” Glunk said. “This would happen in a salmonella infection or other infectious diseases that could be tracked by a health department. In a pandemic though, with contact tracing you can determine how it is spreading and hopefully mitigate further spread.”

Those who were in contact with the COVID-19 positive patient are advised on quarantine procedures such as limiting contact with pets, avoiding using the same bathroom as others in the home, separating yourself from others in the home and wearing a mask while at home.

“What is unique about our program is that we also had questions to make sure there wasn’t social needs,” Glunk added.

If they needed ways to get groceries or medicines, UPMC would then connect them to a social worker and help them at no cost.

In the earlier stages of the pandemic, Glunk said that the spread was “definitely a result of travel” but now the virus has “integrated itself into our counties at a lower level”.

He added that precautions such as face masking and washing your hands should be continued to be required as the virus will continue to be with us and we are all at risk of “potential contact.”

UPMC also partnered with their paramedic departments and arranged for them to be able to do in house testing for those who cannot come into testing facilities.

“The goal is to have everyone successfully recover in their home,” Glunk said.

They did this process in nursing homes as well.

Glunk also said that UPMC worked alongside the Department of Health with their contact tracing, reaching as many people as possible.

“For the most part, the people that we contacted got followed up on and contacted by the Department of Health,” he said. “There was a lot of synergy in making sure that people were doing what they needed to and that contact tracing got spread as much as it needed in order to prevent the spread.”

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