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Ottawa County Health Officer Lisa Stefanovsky makes a presentation to the County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday regarding new contact-tracing technology.

The Ottawa County health department has announced an updated automated contact-tracing program that will use an expedited algorithm to anonymously collect information about those who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Contact tracing and disease investigations have long been the responsibility of local health departments. But with COVID-19, and the quickness with which it can be spread, this digital program will help the Ottawa County Department of Public Health file that information without any missed phone calls. It enables a quicker response to a positive test, and could help save others from becoming infected, according to county health officials.

“We’ve had weeks where there have been anywhere from 300 to 500 positive cases come in, and that becomes a significant challenge for our organization,” Ottawa County Health Officer Lisa Stefanovsky said. “Our goal is that we will be able to do case investigations for 60 percent of our cases using a technology tool.”

Anyone ages 18-70 who test positive will first receive a text message with a timed link to a confidential questionnaire. From there, they can request to speak via phone for more information, if needed.

However, if one does not fill out the questionnaire within four hours, the health department will call and gather information regardless.

“Our mission in public health is to assure conditions that promote and protect health,” Stefanovsky said. “By creating a process that reaches more people in a way that is more convenient for them, together we can work to slow the spread of COVID-19. If you receive a text or phone call from our department, please answer the call to help protect the health of our community.”

This questionnaire asks the same questions as public health workers would ask via a phone call. They would confirm you know your test results, ask who you have been in close contact with, refer care facilities if symptoms increase and help begin self-isolation.

During the 10-day case period, those who have tested positive are urged to continue self-isolation and refrain from going to work or school.

The Ottawa County health department also reminds everyone to continue to wash your hands, wear masks and practice social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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