DENVER (KDVR) — Nearly 100 City and County of Denver employees now have a new job: tracking the spread of coronavirus and advising people to isolate.
“It’s about getting ahead of the spread of the virus, identifying potential cases, isolating individuals before the virus can spread further, and help avoid another community-wide shut-down,” said Mayor Michael Hancock in a press conference Thursday.
A spokesperson for the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment tells the Problem Solvers that the Denver Police Department has offered 100 people to help in the effort. Half of these employees are officers; the other half are civilians. DPD is working with the health department to see how they can use civilians with case investigation as well.
Between 24 and 48 contact tracers will be working every day, depending on the demand, according to DDPHE. The plan does not currently call for more than 100 contact tracers.
“The tracing will be conducted by phone or text, and this is work that will happen seven days a week until further notice,” Hancock said. “When one of the contact tracers reaches out to you, they will always identify themselves, including their phone number, and they will never ask for things like your Social Security number or payment. They will just ask for the basics like your name and your date of birth, which will never be shared or sold.”
The concept of contact tracing isn’t new to Colorado, as the method has been used before on other communicable diseases like measles and tuberculosis. The issue here is those diseases haven’t been widespread to the scale of COVID-19.
“Scaling up to be able to address this particular infectious disease and getting the people and the processes and the data systems in place is a real challenge,” said Dr. Lisa Miller, a professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health.
The City is partnering with local health departments across the metro area to ensure messaging is consistent across different jurisdictions. Contact tracers may reach out to encourage you to monitor for symptoms, or even self isolate for 14 days.
If symptoms get worse, you’re encouraged to call your doctor, or the City’s call center at 720-865-5419, which can redirect you to testing or a mobile testing unit.