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  • The alarming thing about the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

  • is how easily it passes from one person to another.

  • We're still figuring out exactly how it spreads,

  • but it seems like an infected person coughing,

  • or even just exhaling,

  • can shed droplets carrying the virus to another person,

  • and the rule of thumb is that as much as a 6 foot or 1.8 meter radius

  • is everyone's personalsplash zone.”

  • It seems people can also spread the virus even when they're not showing symptoms,

  • further complicating containment.

  • Without countermeasures to break the chain of transmission,

  • the number of cases can balloon exponentially and overwhelm hospitals.

  • To try and stop the virus in its tracks, many places around the world have implemented physical distancing,

  • but another tool that could fight the spread is contact tracing.

  • So, what is contact tracing, how effective is it, and how do we implement it?

  • This probably isn't going to blow anyone's mind,

  • but contact tracing is literally tracing all the people who have been in contact with an infected person.

  • It's the public health equivalent of detective work.

  • Sometimes it's straightforward.

  • Say, a hair stylist is diagnosed with the disease SARS-CoV-2 causes, COVID-19.

  • Their salon likely keeps a list of all the appointments they've had while that stylist was working.

  • A public health worker can then use that list to contact everyone who visited the salon

  • and ask them to monitor their symptoms for two weeks.

  • Some of those people may also be asked to self-quarantine,

  • like if they had prolonged close contact with the stylist,

  • and if, say, an appointment that took hours.

  • Yeah, hair appointments can take hours.

  • You think this just happens naturally?

  • But oftentimes, contact tracing is not so simple.

  • People typically don't keep detailed logs of everyone they've been near all the time,

  • and our memories are imperfect.

  • Even after sorting through calendars and social media posts,

  • contacts can slip through the cracks.

  • Or sometimes, an infected person may have come into contact with hundreds of people

  • and a public health worker might not be able to reach them all.

  • And then, of everyone the public health sleuth does find and contact,

  • a subset of people may just plain not want to comply.

  • Or the original infected person might not want to cooperate and reveal who they've been in contact with.

  • In those cases, public health workers have learned that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

  • One of the requirements to be a contact tracer is empathy.

  • People are more likely to respect what is asked of them if they feel respected.

  • The good news is that a contact tracer doesn't have to catch every potential new case to be effective.

  • One epidemiologist estimated that getting 85% of contacts to self quarantine

  • would slow transmission significantly.

  • Still, leveraging technology could help contact tracers cast a bigger net.

  • In countries like Singapore and South Korea there are smartphone apps that track

  • who comes close to each other,

  • and if one of those people gets diagnosed with COVID-19,

  • the others automatically get a message alerting them.

  • Other countries like Germany are in the process of developing similar apps with more privacy protections.

  • To be effective though, one estimate by researchers at Oxford University

  • suggests that at least 60% of the population would need to download the app.

  • Downloading an app wouldn't be necessary though if everyone had the technology automatically.

  • Recently, Google and Apple announced they would be building a similar feature

  • directly into their mobile operating systems, and are hoping to launch it by mid May.

  • The idea is to use bluetooth transmission between phones,

  • so location data isn't tracked, just proximity to other people's phones.

  • Further privacy protections include using anonymized keys that change every 15 minutes.

  • Still, whether that assuages privacy concerns enough, or whether bluetooth is accurate enough,

  • or if the software even gets done and implemented before we're on the other side of the curve

  • remains to be seen.

  • Until then, places without this tech will have to do it the old fashioned way.

  • Manual contact tracing is not something that can be applied in every stage of this pandemic.

  • It's useful in the early stages to keep a lid on things,

  • but if the number of cases starts to explode,

  • trying to individually reach out quickly becomes a sisyphean task.

  • In the United States there are currently around 2,200 contact tracers

  • employed by government health agencies,

  • but by some estimates we may need as many as 300,000 for contact tracing to be effective.

  • Some places like the San Francisco Bay Area are ramping up their efforts and bringing more on board.

  • However many there are, if they can't keep up with the spread of the virus,

  • or if public testing isn't widespread enough to give an accurate picture of who actually has the virus,

  • then more dramatic measures like physical distancing mandates are necessary.

  • Which is why I'm coming to you pre-recordedlivefrom my apartment,

  • where I've been for over a month.

  • But someday public life will resume.

  • I will leave this apartment again.

  • And as we readjust to life on the outside,

  • contact tracers will likely play a key part in making sure the virus doesn't spread out of control again.

  • So, if the day comes that you get a phone call

  • and the voice on the line empathetically wants to discuss your last hair appointment,

  • do everyone a favor and listen to what they have to say, okay?

  • COVID-19 is a huge subject, one that's impacted each and every one of us.

  • Check out this video if you want to know more,

  • and if there's another aspect of coronavirus news you want to see us cover,

  • let us know in the comments below.

  • Make sure to subscribe to Seeker, and I'll see you next time.

  • Thanks for watching and stay safe.

The alarming thing about the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

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B1 中級

コンタクトトレースとは何ですか? (What Exactly is Contact Tracing?)

  • 3 1
    Summer に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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