Kennedy Dixon, a junior and public health major at EMU, was chosen to participate in the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services COVID-19 contact tracing. The goal is to slow the community spread of infectious pathogens, specifically COVID-19.
Contact tracing is used to touch base with people who may have come into close proximity of a positive case of the virus. According to the CDC’s contact tracing page, “close contact is someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before illness onset until the time the patient is isolated.”
It is a public health care worker’s responsibility to track down, assist, question and even monitor possibly infected people. Self-isolating and self-monitoring one’s temperature and symptoms will be recommended to infected or likely infected people for a two week period in order to try to contain and isolate further spread.
Dixon found out about the contact tracing volunteer opportunity when she signed up for Michigan Department of Health & Human Services’ (MDHHS) coronavirus email updates. The department was searching for people that had public health or social work background. Fitting these qualifications, Dixon applied.
“[Contact tracing is my] first real dive into public health that I’ll be getting besides my course work,” Dixon said.
Though Dixon has not started contact tracing yet as MDHHS works on their security and infrastructure, she signed up to volunteer her time for 20 hours a week shifts, for which she is both excited and nervous.
“Right now [the] MDDHS is working on building a virtual system that we will be using in order to do the contact tracing. I will be working through my county health department, Livingston county and through this portal. We will sign up for a shift and they will allocate specific people we that we will have to contact,” said Dixon.
Dixon described her position and what she would say to someone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
“I would educate them on what to do. If you’re not in respiratory arrest and you don’t have a super severe fever or symptoms, they want you to isolate yourself and take care of yourself for at least two weeks. I am there to educate and answer any questions that they may have.”
Dixon hopes that this contact tracing experience will help push her in the right direction of fulfilling her future goals. She plans on becoming an epidemiologist, which studies patterns and or causes of human diseases. Dixon wants to expand her knowledge and out-of-class experiences through this work.
“I think this is a really good experience in general for public health and what I want to do. After graduating next year, I want to go to grad school for epidemiology, so I figured the more hands-on experience and volunteer work you have in the field, the better. Realistically this contact tracing will be the type of stuff I will be doing in my job if all go as planned,” explained Dixon.