A cop and a contact tracer too

A cop and a contact tracer too

CONTACT TRACERS. Contact tracers are the busiest of all jobs in the city especially with the recent spike in cases of coronavirus disease (Covid-19). This prompts the teams to move swiftly to interview the patients to locate close contacts to prevent the spread of the virus. (Photo courtesy of BCPO FB page)

BAGUIO CITY –  Fear, exhausted body, tired mind but fulfilled.

This is how “JP”, a contact tracer here, describes his everyday life since he was assigned to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) duty in August.

JP is a policeman who joined the Philippine National Police (PNP) in 2013.

For seven years, his assignments were confined to office duty, seated behind a computer, holding a camera, taking photos of events and activities, and assisting the media, who were his former colleagues as a civilian.

But his life and routine changed after completing the six months criminal investigation course.

Finishing the course brought him and his classmates to the contact tracing team of the city.

“Masaya. Nakakatakot kasi direct ang exposure namin pero pag nakahiga na ako sa gabi may feeling of fulfillment akong nararamdaman sa sarili ko. May feeling of pride na malaki ang naitutulong ko laban sa Covid (Happy but fearful too because we are directly exposed. But when the day is over and I lay at night, I have the feeling of fulfillment and pride that I am contributing to the fight against Covid),” JP said.

He said as a policeman, he too is fighting the humanity’s war, not with his gun but his pen and notebook, where he writes down the information provided by a patient which are essential especially for contact tracing.

From dusk ’til dawn

JP and more than 700 other members of the 40 contact tracing teams in Baguio start the day checking on their cellphone for information or assignment to interview a patient or a close contact.

“Madalas hindi lang isang case ang hina-handle sa isang araw, may times na yung contacts ng naunang case nasasama sa bagong araw kaya importante ang notebook para hindi ma mix-up ang information (most of the time it’s not just one case we handle in a day but previous cases are added to the new day making the notebook essential to avoid mixing up the information),” JP said.

“Accuracy of information is very important because what we relay to the encoder which is a result of the interviews is basis of decision and actions of the city and the medical team,” he said.

It is always a long day — starting early and ending late for a contact tracer here whose work is to help contain the movement of close contact or the patient himself.

He said their day starts early but has no definite time to go home at night. There are no day-offs and are always on call. “It’s always a PPE day,” he said.

“Very urgent na makuha agad and storya ng isang positive patient para maiwasan ang pagkalat (talking to the patient and getting vital information is urgent to avoid the spread of the disease),” he said.

“Getting the person to trust you is not an easy task, it takes practice, constant change in strategy but it is important to have the heart to make the patient feel comfortable talking to you,” said JP.

He said making the patient feel that there is sympathy spells out the difference in getting the correct and accurate information and allowing the person to divulge relevant information needed by the link analysis to be able to connect the dots.

He said most of the time, he suffers from information overload, thus the need to always refer to the notes.

War vs. Covid

JP said the job of a contact tracer and a policeman are no different.

“Parehas silang nakakatakot kasi tinataya mo ang buhay mo. Pero sa contact tracing, hindi nakikita ang enemy (They are both scary because in both cases, you are putting your life on the line. However in contact tracing, you don’t see the enemy). Both are police-related as they involve investigation,” he said.

Mayor Benjamin Magalong, the country’s contact tracing czar, said there are only three things that a contact tracer must possess — investigation skill, cognitive interviewing skill, and the most important, analytical skill.

In Baguio, the top priority is safety which is always a reminder to contact tracers.

“It (contact tracer) is a challenging job, an exciting one, and decent with an enticing salary aside from the thought that members are joining the worldwide war against Covid-19,” the mayor said. (PNA) 

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