HENRY COUNTY, Ohio — What is contract tracing? It's not a new practice. In fact, it's been used for decades to track the spread of infectious disease and it's one of the biggest parts of stopping the coronavirus.
Health officials say these investigators are the unseen heroes of the pandemic, helping to find out who's been infected and helping to stop that spread.
"It's probably the most important step that we have in the whole thing," said Henry County Health Department director of nursing Julie Lauf. "Testing obviously is important but when you get down to that contact tracing, that's how you stop it so it doesn't spread."
Lauf said you may not see them, but contact tracers are working hard every day. Basically, they're investigators who look into people that have been exposed to an infectious disease like COVID-19.
"We start the investigation we contact that person, find out who their contacts, where they were," said Lauf, "trace back where they were 48 hours, sometimes maybe a little longer."
65 confirmed cases have been traced back to a winery event in Henry County on July 11. Lauf explains contact tracing needs to be precise, especially in rural communities, to stop the spread from big outbreaks like that.
"You're doing that investigation and you know if you miss one thing that might be the link that leads to 10 more cases," she said, "because someone may not know, and they go out and they can spread it around, sometimes unknowingly."
Henry County Health Commissioner Mark Adams stressed cases are expected to rise from the July 11 winery event. But this serves as a wake up to smaller communities that this virus can be easily spread.
"You think inherently because of the space that we have between people that we don't have a risk," said Adams. "That right there woke a lot of people up, saying 'wait a minute we just went from 32 to 84 cases in a week. How did this happen?' One event."
Lauf said our healthcare heroes are important but society is the first line of defense. And we can stop this if we all do our part.
"Everybody wearing their mask, staying home if you're ill, helping out, staying home if somebody's told you to stay home because you're being quarantined or isolated," she said. "They're really the ones that can stop this. And that's what we need and that's what we do with contact tracing."