Dubuque visiting nurses conducting COVID-19 contact tracing

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Health officials in Dubuque County are tracing confirmed COVID-19 patients' actions to determine who is at risk of exposure.

A sign outside of the UnityPoint Health Visiting Nurse Association office in Dubuque on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. The VNA is working on contact tracing for positive cases of COVID-19 in the county. (Maggie Wedlake/KCRG)

Staff at the Visiting Nurses Association ask patients questions like where they work and spend time and when their symptoms started to appear. From there the VNA contacts people that may have been exposed.

They follow up with instructions, isolation guidelines, what to do in the home and how to protect others from exposure.

The VNA relies on organizations and workplaces to help share this information with employees.

Mary Rose Corrigan, a public health specialist, said it is not a reason to panic but to allow people to self-isolate if needed.

"A lot of different factors go into that. We want to be careful because we don't want to create unnecessary anxiety among people," Corrigan said. "Because you were in the same building as a person that tested positive does not mean you've been exposed. It's very specific criteria."

Those criteria include things like what type of atmosphere the person was in, the amount of time spent with someone and how close they were to one another.

Right now the VNA is adequately staffed to handle the caseload with more nurses available if needed.

If there is a surplus in cases, the Iowa Department of Public Health will likely modify the guidelines for contact tracing.