Valley health expert talks contact tracing as Arizona lifts stay-at-home order

More and more, people who test positive for COVID-19 in Maricopa County are hearing from contact tracers.

In 2003, contact tracing is credited with stopping the SARS virus, but an expert says with SARS, people knew they were sick. With COVID-19, people can be asymptomatic, or experience symptoms so mild, that they don’t know they have it, and they may not know the people they had contact with.

"When you’re a contact tracer, you’re going to have your 'A' List, 'B' List, and 'C' List," said Will Humble with the Arizona Public Health Association. "Really, all you’re going to have time to do is work your 'A' List, and that's family members, co-workers, and close family contacts. You’re going to realize you're not going to get to the 'B' List contacts, but working the 'A' List will make a difference."

Humble says contact tracing is important, but it will be most effective if people follow other guidelines for slowing the spread of COVID-19.

"It's not something that's going to make a huge dramatic change all on its own," said Humble.

Humble fully expects cases of COVID-19 in Arizona to increase.

"This is a big, brand new experiment now that started a few days ago, with the lifting of the stay-at-home order and the behavior changes of people in the community," said Humble. "It's gonna increase the cases. How much? we'l find out."

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COVID-19 symptoms

Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu. 

Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough, and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, or heart conditions.

RELATED: Is it the flu, a cold or COVID-19? Different viruses present similar symptoms

Right now there's one big difference between flu and coronavirus: A vaccine exists to help prevent the flu and it's not too late to get it. It won't protect you from catching the coronavirus but may put you in a better position to fight it.

To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.

And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms - don't go straight to your doctor's office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Stay home when you are sick.

Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Additional resources

Coronavirus (COVID-19) - How it spreads, symptoms, prevention, treatment, FAQ (In Spanish/En Español)

Arizona COVID-19 Response - Public resources, FAQ, webinars (In Spanish/En Español)

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