Local contact tracers say work has been manageable as COVID-19 numbers decline

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CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Contact tracing has been the key to slow down the spread of COVID-19. Now that cases have declined, local contact tracers say the workload is manageable and they are able to investigate cases more in-depth.

“Over the winter we had a surge in cases and we were very, very busy. We had a real drop off recently which is wonderful,” says Claire Proffitt, Schenectady County Supervising Public Health Nurse. 

Contact tracers make calls everyday to people who usually don’t want to hear the news, they may be exposed to the virus and need to quarantine. Proffitt says it doe not matter how many active cases are in the county, the job as a contact tracer still takes an emotional toll. Proffitt oversees the contact tracers in Schenectady County.

“We’re starting to see people at a moment of pain and difficulty for them and that can often translate into anger and frustration to the person that’s calling them. Recently, we’ve been dealing with a lot of them who are just really tired,” says Proffitt. Tired to say the least. Now as cases slow down and the vaccine is out, we’re finally able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

A group of the Schenectady County contact tracers have been helping out at the vaccine PODS. A slight change of work for them, now they’re dealing with people who are happy to be rolling up their sleeves for the vaccine. “They really feel like they’re making a difference. People are happy, they’re thanking you, they’re appreciative,” says Proffitt.

Rensselear County contact tracers continue to work around the clock, seven days a week. About two weeks ago, the county has partnered with nursing students at Hudson Valley Community College. Health officials are teaching the younger minds how public health has changed within the last year.

“We really love mentoring our future public health workers. We try to embrace nurses and give them as aspect of public health. It’s not what they get in their programs. A couple of our people go up to Hudson Valley in classrooms and teach contact tracing and they’re actually doing cases for us. We’re really happy about that collaboration, it’s helping us out,” says Rensselaer County Public Health Director Maryfran Wachunas.

Proffitt says contact tracers are prepared if we see another surge of COVID-19 cases. “We really hit our peak efficiency now. Has much as everyone hates me to say it, if there’s another pandemic, we’re going to be able to really jump right into this.”

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