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Reflections From a Former COVID-19 Case Investigator

Reflections From a Former COVID-19 Case Investigator

By LINDSEY FENNER  After over a year working in public health as a pandemic responder, I am back doing my pre-pandemic work. And although this doesn”™t mean the pandemic is over, it does mean this column is at an end. I started writing it because I wanted people to have something to hold onto within the swirl of pandemic uncertainty and anxiety. I realized very quickly that no matter what my job description was on paper, what I was really doing was struggling with people through uncertainty. My job was to listen, to talk through complicated realities that didn”™t fit neatly into a box, to help people who were sick make decisions when there wasn”™t a clear correct choice. And now, after my job is over, what is there to say about what we have all been through together?  We are all connected. Which is nothing new, but doing this work meant relearning that every single day. In my role doing case investigation/epidemiology we called people one by one, asking them questions about their individual actions. But in every individual conversation, we were really teasing out all of these threads of connection. How one thing led to another, led to this particular person I was talking to on the phone being infected. This is after all how infectious diseases work, and why this work is done by “public” health and not your personal healthcare provider.  And each individual conversation was so important, especially at the beginning when there was so much we didn”™t know. Each person had a story. And these stories, as lived experiences, all matter. And parts of that story became data points on a graph. This shouldn”™t be seen as something purely reductive or dehumanizing. These data points, made up of stories, collectively helped tell the policy makers what to do next.  We could have done better. Sometimes the wrong decision was made by people in power. Sometimes there was no good [...]

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