What Are the Basics of Contact Tracing?

There is substantial evidence to suggest that racial minority groups are being disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The global pandemic, COVID-19, which broke out in early 2020, has forced humanity to accept many changes: in our social lives, in how we shop and work, and in our safety precautions.COVID-19 has seen billions of people worldwide social distancing, wearing masks, and washing their hands around the clock. Immediately after the virus was discovered and started to spread, scientists around the world began their research to not only understand the components of the virus but also track how it was transferred from person to person. One of the best ways is through contact tracing. Contact tracing is a crucial part of identifying people who have been

potentially exposed to the virus and are therefore susceptible to spreading it to others. This research is vital to everyone but holds specific prominence to minority groups. Social inequalities and systemic health biases are anything but new for the Black community, as well as countless other minority groups. With the COVID-19 pandemic, these issues have been amplified tenfold. Historically, social determinants of health have played a crucial part in the unfair lack of physical health opportunities within minority communities. Quality of healthcare is directly linked to the quality of living and work conditions, especially during a global pandemic.

What is Contact Tracing? Contact tracing is a process used by public health workers and officials to identify individuals who have come in close contact with someone who has been infected with the virus or is likely to be infected. The officials talk with those infected or suspected of being infected to find out whom they have spent time with. This research gives health officials the ability to track the virus and educate those infected on stopping the spread Once the healthcare staff has gathered the infected individual's data, they then work to inform all those who have come into proximity of the virus. For confidentiality reasons, those contacted about their suspected exposure are not told who exposed them, only how best to avoid spreading the virus further. Exposed people are highly advised to stay at home and self-quarantine for 14days, and if they must leave their homes, to social distance and vigilantly wear facial coverings. They are also told to closely monitor themselves and their family members for potential symptoms of the virus and how best to seek out testing, should they need it. The advice of self-quarantining and self-symptom evaluation for those exposed has shown contact tracing to effectively reduce the continuous spread of the COVID-19 virus.

What Factors Contribute to Higher Infection Risks for the Black Community?

Those part of the Black community are no strangers to social discrimination, including when it comes to their health. These inequities in our healthcare system have put racial and ethnic minorities at an increased risk of contracting the virus and spreading it to others

  • Discrimination and Bias: Discrimination exists all around us, and unfortunately, systems meant to maintain the safety and health of our communities are not immune. Prejudice, bias, and racism directly result in hostile and stressful environments where minorities are at a higher risk.

  • Access to Healthcare: People from Black communities and other ethnic minorities are statistically less likely to have health insurance than those in non-minority groups. If someone is uninsured, their access to proper healthcare can be minimal. There are also factors such as childcare, transportation, communication, and language barriers that can stand in the way of a minority individual receiving proper medical treatment

  • Occupation: Members of the Black community or other minority groups often find themselves unevenly represented in essential work careers, such as healthcare establishments, factories, stores, and transportation. Working in these professions put those individuals at a higher risk of exposure to the virus.

  • Education and Income Gaps: Minority groups are frequently left with lower access to higher education, which limits future career prospects and may lead to lower compensating jobs. These jobs often do not hold strong job security and may make it difficult to receive time off for doctor’s visits and sick leave. If someone cannot afford to miss work, even if they're sick, they likely have no other choice but to continue working, therefore continuing the virus' exposure rate.

These factors, and several others, are recognized as high contributors to minority groups seeing the pandemic's brunt

What Can We Do?

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the entire world making social and economic changes to maintain our health. Community support, such as family, friends, cultural links, and religious sectors, is a crucial tool for minorities to find help. Community organizations have played a large role in encouraging people to protect themselves and be educated in what to do once they're sick. Community and churches have also played a substantial part in promoting fair access to healthcare and resources for minorities.

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