City asks residents to participate in contact tracing

As contact tracing begins to expand in Winona, the city is calling on residents to participate by answering any questions and providing accurate information if they are contacted by county health officials.

Contact tracing is the practice of determining who may have come in contact with and possibly been infected by a person who tests positive for the COVID-19 virus. It involves trained public health workers and volunteers reaching out to exposed individuals to warn them and provide information and best practices, including self-quarantining for 14 days, monitoring for symptoms, and getting tested.

Due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Winona County, and the loosening of stay at home orders and physical distancing, contact tracers are vital in the process of helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Contact tracing supports positive patients and warns their contacts of possible exposure to the disease, in order to stop the spread to additional people,” said Betsy Zeller, a public health nurse with Winona County, which is leading local contact tracing efforts.

Contact tracing can save lives by allowing potentially infected residents to seek early diagnosis and treatment, especially those who are immunocompromised or have pre-existing health conditions. Contact tracing is also an important tool that helps public health workers, healthcare organizations and local governments proactively and quickly get testing, protective equipment, resources and assistance to locations where COVID-19 is already spreading or is likely to spread.

Contact tracing information is private and confidential. The identity of the infected person is never revealed. Contact tracers only ask questions about personal health; they will not ask questions about citizenship, financial information, or other topics. Contact tracers work remotely and will never visit or ask to enter a home or business.

“I call on all residents to participate in contact tracing if they are contacted by county health officials,” said Winona Mayor Mark Peterson. “This is an important tool to protect the health and safety of our community, limit the spread of COVID-19, and ensure those who are infected or exposed get the support and care they need.”

The city’s COVID-19 Community Response Team will document and communicate additional information and resources on contact tracing as they become available.