A day in the life of a coronavirus contract tracer

Have you ever wondered what a Contact Tracer does? What the job entails and how the system works?

Here’s some insight into a day in the life of Enfys James, a Contact Tracer Officer working with the Public Health Protection Team for Ceredigion County Council.

How did you get into being a Contact Tracer?

When I read the job description for the Contact Tracing Officer posts I immediately thought to myself “I want to do this role”.

I have always had an involvement with Infectious Diseases. During my role as Personal Assistant for the Head of Lifestyle Services, I followed up on Infectious Disease cases, contacting members of the public who had been identified as having diseases such as Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, and Salmonella.

Credit: PA

Describe a typical day as a Contact Tracer:

The Contact Tracing Service operates from 8am to 8pm seven days a week and I work on a shift basis.

As a Contact Tracer I am allocated a case and work on it until it has been fully completed. I will immediately telephone the positive case hoping that I’ll get an answer.

A text message will also be sent informing the case that Ceredigion County Council Track and Trace Service need to speak to them urgently and will be contacting them again later. 

By the time I make contact with them they have usually received their result but on some occasions I am the first person to inform them that they are COVID-19 positive. 

Once I have established that I am speaking to the correct person I will ask them to confirm which symptoms they have developed and which dates did their symptoms start.

Some positive cases have been asymptomatic and we therefore only have the date of the test to go by.

I will then need to establish their exposures and locations 48 hours prior to their symptoms starting and up until the day I make contact with them on the telephone.

It is vital that I gather detailed information of their household contacts, their non-household contacts, have they been to work, have they visited any shops, pubs, café’s restaurants, have they been away on holiday, etc.

Some cases have had up to 40 individual contacts which means that I will have to upload details on 40 different persons.

I will give them advice on self-isolating, which means staying at home and not going out even for shopping. They are advised to limit contact with other people in their household and to keep at least 2 metres apart at all times. I also inform them how important it is to practice good hygiene.

Credit: PA

What do you enjoy about the work?

The most enjoyable aspect is that every case you deal with is different. Each case has such a variety of different issues, from a straightforward case up to a very complex where I have to escalate to my managers.

It is true to say that in the short period of time when speaking to a positive case on the telephone, you develop a relationship.

The majority of the cases I have dealt with have co-operated and have been willing to give me a detailed account of their daily activities. 

What is the most challenging aspect of the work?

The most challenging aspect of the work is to get each positive case to provide a truthful and trustworthy account of their contacts and locations. 

I depend entirely on the information that I receive. It’s like completing a jigsaw - in order to have the full picture you need each piece in its place.

I have been accused of being a Scammer. This was a very lengthy and challenging call.

What is your main message to the people of Ceredigion?

This is a hard time for us all, this is a year like no other, and things will be different from now on.

However, we’re all in this together. My main message for the people of Ceredigion is to self-isolate if they have any of the symptoms of the coronavirus.

If they have a new persistent cough, loss or change of taste or smell, or a high temperature, stay at home. Thank you for staying apart to play your part.