No one should think that it’s too late to stomp the climbing COVID-19 infection curve flat in Blaine County. The game is not over, even though the coronavirus is on a hot streak.
A play that could stop its momentum is to track contacts of people who are infected. Those include people an infected person shared space with at work, at school, at home or doing errands.
A second play would be to truly quarantine infected persons. Simply sending them home to their families spreads the virus to other family members unless strict isolation measures are taken. An infected person should not share a bathroom, a room or meals with others until he or she recovers.
Health departments all over the country are pleading that understaffing makes it impossible to trace contacts. Analog methods of calling infected people, recording the names of recent contacts and then notifying those contacts takes a lot of manpower.
Yet, this is not impossible. A lot of locals are sitting around looking for things to do because they’ve lost their jobs. We call that a pool of volunteers. Given supervision and a good game plan, they could track contacts. With more contacts informed of exposure, the more they could self-isolate to reduce contagion.
The reward for all the effort: Everyone will be able to get back to paying jobs a lot sooner. Kids will be able to go back to school. Businesses can reopen. More lives of friends and neighbors will be saved.
Cell phone app makers are producing voluntary infection and contact reporting that could make tracking easier, but apps are not yet widely available. Phone companies are afraid they will violate privacy regulations if they use location-identification systems to track contacts and to identify growing hotspots.
Yet, there is no time to wait to overcome development kinks or resolve legal haggling. Just as martial law has never survived into peacetime in the U.S., privacy incursions could be rolled back when the pandemic is over.
People who say that it’s too late to do more forget that it’s always too early to give up.
With leadership from the Blaine County commissioners, local mayors and city councils, South Central District Health and St. Luke’s hospital officials, contact tracking and quarantine is possible. After all, the Sun Valley Lodge was a Navy hospital during World War II.
It’s game on. We have to play smarter. We shouldn’t give up points. We must keep trying
to even the score and win the Coronavirus War.