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Kent County Health Department Director explains contact tracing


The Kent County Health Department says social distancing is helping slow the spread of COVID-19. While cases continue to rise, the trajectory of the curve is flattening. Social distancing and a monitoring process enacted by the health department may also be at play.

In an effort to prevent further transmission of the virus, the Kent County Health Department’s team has implemented what is known as contact tracing.

“When we learn of a case, we contact that person. We make sure that they are staying in isolation so as not to put others at risk. We’re also finding out who their close contacts were so that we can give them quarantine directions in order to see if they become sick and to make sure they’re not exposing others.”

Dr. Adam London is Kent County Health Director. He says its important to know the difference between the term isolation and quarantine.

“Isolation is what happens when we have a person who is sick. We isolate that person to make sure they’re not exposing others. Quarantine is what we do to healthy people who have been exposed to someone who is sick. And we don’t know if they’re going to become sick or not, but it’s important that we have some restrictions over their movement so they’re not unnecessarily exposing others.”

Dr. London explains the word quarantine dates back to the European Black Plague of the 14th Century. Inbound sailing ships were directed to drop anchor in the harbor and wait 40 days before crew could come ashore. Old school tools for flattening the curve until pharmaceutical treatments come to market.

“One is an anti-viral called Remdesivir. This would be to COVID-19 kind of like Tamiflu is to influenza.”

Of course, a vaccine is the ultimate prevention.

I’m Patrick Center

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.