Today, when reading the news, many things can sound new and foreign. Words like COVID-19, novel virus, antiviral, asymptomatic and contact tracing. Prior to 2020, we didn’t frequently use these words or necessarily understand their meaning. Now, we find ourselves reading them and using them in everyday conversations. They are etching their way into our current culture.
Trace and Track
Across the globe, many countries have implemented contact tracing strategies to help find and stop the spread of the virus. As a result, some countries which were early adopters of contact tracing have successfully flattened the curve. Contact tracing is carried out by identifying people who have come into contact with a person who is infected. Once identified, those individuals are contacted to let them know of possible exposure and, most importantly, they are asked to isolate so no one else can be exposed.
Point of Contact
As COVID-19 spread through Europe in March, U.S. military bases overseas were vulnerable to the virus. Recognizing this, military leadership on base at USAG Wiesbaden in Germany created a trace team. This quickly became an essential part of their response.
The Red Cross office on base was ready and willing to staff this operation in support of our military. What started off as three Red Cross volunteers quickly became 17 volunteers, all with various levels of medical experience. Red Crossers employed their medical expertise while working alongside active duty service members.
Getting the Inside Track
Their overarching mission is to quickly identify possible exposure events and help slow the spread from those events. Volunteers aid in a variety of ways. They interview people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and identify anyone who might have come in contact with them. Once identified, they contact the individuals and ask that they quarantine for 14 days and monitor their health for any symptoms.
Red Cross volunteers also play a huge role in the logistics of the operations. They answer phone calls, provide information and complete daily calls back. Medical professional volunteers screen possible cases and conduct end-of-quarantine interviews to help determine if someone can return to work. One volunteer, Bria Thomas, shares why she’s donating her time and expertise, “I first began volunteering because I wanted to help my military community. Now, it’s personal. My great aunt passed due to COVID, so this is my way to honor her.”
The success of the flagship team in Wiesbaden, Germany has inspired the creation of new trace teams across other military bases in Europe. Tracing volunteers are working with clinics on base to identify and stop the spread of COVID-19. Public Health Nurse Lynnette Murray recognizes the joint efforts of military leadership and Red Cross volunteers, “Our efforts to control the spread of the virus would not have been as successful without the dedication, selflessness and commitment of the volunteers living among us.”
Become a Volunteer
In the face of disasters like COVID-19, the American Red Cross and global Red Cross Red Crescent network join together to ease people’s suffering. Find out how you can volunteer at home and across the globe at redcross.org.
For more information about American Red Cross’s work around the world, visit redcross.org/international.