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Gov. Inslee unveils plan for rapid COVID-19 contact tracing in Washington

Nearly 1,400 people are being trained to help with COVID-19 contact tracing in Washington state. The state said participation is voluntary.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee outlined a state plan for coronavirus contact tracing, which is a way to monitor contacts of infected people. 

By the end of the week, nearly 1,400 people will be trained and ready to help with COVID-19 contact tracing.

The plan, according to Inslee, is to alert people who came into contact with someone infected by coronavirus within 24 hours of contact. 

"This has to be very quick," Inslee explained. 

Contact tracers include those serving with the National Guard, Department of Licensing, and state and local health officials. 

Participation in any contact tracing is voluntary, said Amy Reynolds with the state's Department of Health. Reynolds said while the state hopes people will cooperate to help protect the health of loved ones and others who may have been exposed, a patient has the right to refuse to share information with contact tracers.

Contact tracing is another step toward re-opening the economy and lifting social distancing restrictions in the state. 

"This initiative will be a statewide extension of what local public health districts have historically done for other diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis, and the like," Inslee said Tuesday. "But it will be in a much grander scale, as it needs to be given the extent of the COVID-19 virus."
Inslee continued, "It will be the largest in our state's history, as it should be. And I'm very glad that we can implement this initiative now."

“Contact tracing is another tool in our toolbox for tackling COVID-19 in Washington,” Inslee said. “While we need to continue physical distancing, this will allow us to get a better handle on who gets sick and how the virus is spread, which is vital to re-opening our economy.”

Credit: State of Washington

The Associated Press reports that the 1,371 trained contact tracers include 351 members from the National Guard, 390 from the Department of Licensing and 630 tracers are state or local health professionals. The total number of contact tracers in Washington is expected to rise. 

RELATED: Real-time updates: Nearly 1,400 people trained as coronavirus contact tracers in Washington

Contact tracing is a part of the process to stop chains of transmission, according to the CDC

"Identifying contacts and ensuring they do not interact with others is critical to protect communities from further spread. If communities are unable to effectively isolate patients and ensure contacts can separate themselves from others, rapid community spread of COVID-19 is likely to increase to the point that strict mitigation strategies will again be needed to contain the virus," according to the CDC.

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