Shepparton News

The art of contact tracing

THE GOULBURN VALLEY LOCAL PUBLIC HEALTH UNIT CONTACT TRACERS HAVE BEEN BUSY THROUGHOUT THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. THE TEAM SHARES WHAT IT DOES EACH DAY AND HOW A TYPICAL CONVERSATI­ON UNFOLDS.

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Lucy Stephens has spoken to people across Victoria throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

For some, she‘s delivering good news. For others she is helping retrace their steps over the past couple of days or week.

Lucy is part of the Goulburn Valley Local Public Health Unit (LPHU) contact tracing team, which is called on every time there is a COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria.

“Both the exciting and tiring part of contact tracing is that not every day looks the same,” she said.

“A day might include interviewi­ng people who have tested positive for COVID-19, getting primary close contacts into quarantine and notifying them of their quarantine requiremen­ts or managing exposure sites.

“And sometimes, the really good part of the job — telling people that they‘re able to come out of quarantine from midnight that night — those are always our favourite calls to do.”

Lucy has worked at Goulburn Valley Health since 2017 in health promotion, and now manages the two roles based on the workload of the contact tracing team.

She was part of GV Health‘s COVID-19 response, conducting asymptomat­ic testing at Riverside Plaza and Bunnings.

“We‘re really lucky in our Goulburn LPHU to have an array of staff to work with and we‘ve got an incredible team with talents from a range of discipline­s

including nursing, allied health field, pathology, public health, admin and doctors who have all moved within GV Health or come on board the LPHU since the start of the year,” she said.

Working to help contain outbreaks around the state, Lucy said the response from the LPHU would look different depending on a number of factors.

“What we need to do depends on the informatio­n (we) receive. For example in our recent Shepparton outbreak, we had to notify schools, get people home and

start the process of quarantine,” she said.

“This was obviously a very large number of people.”

But the requiremen­ts for each person, and their household contacts who are isolating, are varied.

Some people will be living in an apartment with only a balcony, others a house with a small backyard and some with acres to roam.

“When we call people about their isolation requiremen­ts, there are a lot of different questions,” Lucy said.

“One farmer asked if they could travel to check their cows who were calving. It was a question I wasn‘t really expecting.

“With the help of the Department of Agricultur­e we were able to organise some volunteers to handle the calving.

“Another family on a property was told a member of their household would have to isolate. In a morning they had managed to find a caravan and portaloo — I‘ve never heard of someone finding those so quickly.”

As the state opens up and we begin to live with COVID-19 in the community, Lucy said it was vital for people to be aware of COVID-19 symptoms, get tested and isolate until they received a negative result.

“We are only as good as the informatio­n we receive and sometimes that can take some time,” she said.

“It‘s important for the community to remember this is a health diagnosis and people giving us their informatio­n should be thanked — it gives us the best head start to get on top of cases.

“We‘ve seen Shepparton step up twice now to bring COVID-19 outbreaks under control.

“Thank you to the community for doing the right thing and looking out for one another.”

“But also please get vaccinated. It is our way out of COVID, our way to get back to our loved ones and our way back to normal life.”

 ?? ?? Goulburn Valley Local Public Health Unit public health officer Lucy Stephens said people should be thanked for their honesty when it came to contact tracing.
Goulburn Valley Local Public Health Unit public health officer Lucy Stephens said people should be thanked for their honesty when it came to contact tracing.
 ?? ?? Goulburn Valley Local Public Health Unit team leader Adele Brown, public health officer Lucy Stephens and team leader Mel Williams.
Goulburn Valley Local Public Health Unit team leader Adele Brown, public health officer Lucy Stephens and team leader Mel Williams.

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