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A day in the life of a Contact Tracer Officer

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Enfys James is a Contact Tracer Officer. She is part of a Team working within the Public Health Protection Team for Ceredigion County Council. Here you will get an insight into the day of a Contact Tracer Officer.

What were you doing before you started your work as a contact tracer?

I was born and brought up in Neuaddlwyd near Aberaeron, and attended the local school at Ciliau Parc, Ciliau Aeron, Aberaeron Secondary School and then went on to the College of Further of Education at Aberystwyth to undertake a Bilingual Secretarial/Short-Hand Course.

I have been an employee with the Local Authority since my appointment as Clerk Typist in the Public Health and Housing Department of Ceredigion District Council since September 1985. Having been re-appointed to be Divisional Administrative Officer and Personal Assistant to the Head of Lifestyle Services, in May 2018 I was appointed to the post of Community Connector for Porth y Gymuned. My role as Community Connector was to work on a 1:1 basis with individuals for up to 6 weeks to improve their social and emotional wellbeing, to promote independence and to reduce social exclusion, social isolation and loneliness.

How did you get into being a Contact Tracer?

When I read the job advert and job description for the Contact Tracing Officer posts on the Ceredigion County Council Job Vacancies page, I immediately thought to myself “I want to do this role”! I really fancied the job and a certainty that I wanted to be part of the COVID-19 team for Ceredigion County Council.

I have always had an involvement with Infectious Diseases. When I started in my first role as Clerk/Typist, I had to log details of every infectious disease in the County. During my role as Personal Assistant I followed up on Infectious Disease cases, contacting members of the public who had been identified as having diseases such as Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, and Salmonella. These telephone conversations were sensitive in nature, asking some personal questions and completing a detailed questionnaire on the Infectious Disease Database. After reading the Job Description I thought to myself the role of a Contact Tracer would be something very similar.

My interview for the Contact Tracing Officer post was through Zoom this was a totally new experience, I did dress up smartly as if I was going to walk into a room although it was a matter of sitting down at the kitchen table with just my laptop! At least nobody could see my legs shaking!

None of us will ever forget the Coronavirus Pandemic in 2020. Having been appointed as a Contact Tracer, I have established that it is a critical role. It provides the opportunity to make a valuable contribution and ensuring the health and safety of the residents of Ceredigion.

Describe a typical day as a Contact Tracer.

The Contact Tracing Service operates from 8a.m. to 8p.m. seven days a week and I work on a shift basis.

It is the NHS All Wales Contact Tracing database I work on. Ceredigion County Council has its own site and the database will immediately highlight new positive cases in the county throughout the working day and during the night.

As a Contact Tracer I am allocated a case and work on it until it has been fully completed. I will immediately telephone the positive case hoping that I’ll get an answer. If there is no answer, and there is an option to leave a message I will do so. A text message will also be sent informing the case that Ceredigion County Council Track and Trace Service need to speak to them urgently and will be contacting them again later.

In the first instance when I do the initial call to a positive case, I will ask them to confirm their full name, address, date of birth, and the date of their test just to check that I am speaking to the person who has had a test. By the time I make contact with them they have usually received their result but on some occasions I am the first person to inform them that they are COVID-19 positive. The person I contact can speak in Welsh or English – whichever language they feel comfortable.

Once I have established that I am speaking to the correct person I will ask them to confirm which symptoms they have developed e.g. cough, fever, anosmia, etc and which dates did their symptoms start. Some positive cases have been asymptomatic and we therefore only have the date of the test to go by.

I will then need to establish their exposures and locations 48 hours prior to their symptoms starting and up until the day I make contact with them on the telephone. It is vital that I gather detailed information of their household contacts, their non-household contacts, have they been to work, have they visited any shops, pubs, café’s restaurants, have they been away on holiday, etc. I have to gather all contact names, dates of birth, addresses and telephone numbers of the people they have had close contact with. Some cases have had up to 40 individual contacts which means that I will have to upload details on 40 different persons. A detailed report is also typed up and added to the record and all records are kept in the strictest of confidence in line with GDPR guidelines.

I will give them advice on self-isolating, which means staying at home and not going out even for shopping. They are advised to limit contact with other people in their household and to keep at least 2 metres apart at all times. I also inform them how important it is to practice good hygiene, to wash their hands frequently, clean down touched surfaces such as kettles, taps, door handles etc. I always check and ask them how they think they will manage and cope with day to day tasks.

Once the list of exposures and locations is completed it will automatically be forwarded through to the Contact Tracing Advisors whose responsibility will be to telephone those exposures and give them advice regarding self-isolating.

In some instances the Contact Tracing Team have identified positive cases which have formed a cluster. For example the cases have been linked through social gatherings or at a workplace and the role of the Contact Tracer becomes more of a detective role at this stage. If we have received a dozen positive cases who have all attended the same social gathering we then need to identify the accurate background information from each individual which makes it interesting but challenging.

How do you work as a team?

The Contact Tracing Team is led by 3 Operational Leads who I report to on a daily basis.

The ability to work as a team is essential, it is important to communicate on a daily basis, to share the workload, and to share any views and ideas. The whole team have never met up in person only by communicating on Microsoft Teams Sites, e-mail or telephone. Throughout my career I have never experienced anything like it!

What do you enjoy about the work?

Since the day I commenced in my Clerk/Typist role in 1985 I have always enjoyed my work and have had so many different opportunities within the County Council. I enjoy everything to do with the role of being a Contact Tracer.

The most enjoyable aspect is that every case you deal with is different. When I do my first initial call to a positive case I find that it’s so important to be asking them as soon as you have confirmed their personal details how they are, and how they are feeling. Some positive cases have been very poorly whilst others have had milder symptoms. You will speak to a young person who has just commenced in University or an elderly retired person. Each case has such a variety of different issues, from a straightforward case up to a very complex where I have to escalate to my Managers.

It is true to say that in the short period of time when speaking to a positive case on the telephone, you develop a relationship. The majority of the cases I have dealt with have co-operated and have been willing to give me a detailed account of their daily activities. This includes who they have had close contact with and if they haven’t been able to provide me with the accurate details during the initial phone call they are more than willing for me to call them back to receive those details.

What is the most challenging aspect of the work?

The most challenging aspect of the work is to collate accurate information from each positive case, and to get each positive case to provide a truthful and trustworthy account of their contacts and locations.

I depend entirely on the information that I receive from the positive cases. It’s like completing a jigsaw – in order to have the full picture you need each piece in its place. As a Contact Tracer it is important that we trace all their contacts as soon as possible. Ultimately, this will ensure that we keep the cases of the coronavirus low in the county.

I have been accused of being a Scammer. This was a very lengthy and challenging call and I had to use tact and diplomacy to reassure them I was a Contact Tracer.

Dealing with positive cases who are limited in speaking the English language can be challenging. I have to make sure that I receive the accurate information from them and also make sure that they understand the advice and information I give them.

On occasions I have had cases who have not been informed that they have tested positive and I am the first person to be telling them. Some of these cases have been very upset on the telephone and I’ve had to comfort them and after my initial call I will make it a point of ringing them up again a day later just to check on their well-being.

This highlights how challenging it is and the importance of getting the positive cases to relay the correct information at all times.

What has the reaction been? What sort of questions people ask?

Every single case I have contacted have been most helpful and have provided the information that is required.

The positive cases with symptoms have accepted that they have to self-isolate for 10 days from when their symptoms started and anyone in the household who do not display symptoms have to self-isolate for 14 days from when the first person in the household started having symptoms. Informing someone who has a busy lifestyle that they are not allowed to leave their home for 10 days can be challenging but they do accept the consequence and know how dangerous the COVID-19 pandemic is.

Why is your work important to the Council?

My role as a Contact Tracing Officer is critical in order to protect all residents and our community in Ceredigion by helping to disrupt community transmission of the virus and breaking the chain of transmission.

I take my role as a Contact Tracing Officer seriously and take pride in collating and relaying the accurate information I receive from our Ceredigion cases. If I feel that an urgent issue needs escalating I will inform my Operational Leads. Our Operational Leads report on a daily basis to the Leadership Group and if there are any issues in connection with the transmission of the virus that needs urgent attention within the County it will be dealt with immediately.

What is your main message to the people of Ceredigion?

This is a hard time for us all, this is a year like no other, and things will be different from now on. However, we’re all in this together. My main message for the people of Ceredigion is to self-isolate if they have any of the symptoms of the coronavirus. If they have a new persistent cough, loss or change of taste or smell, or a high temperature, stay at home. Further guidance can be read on the Council’s website www.ceredigion.gov.uk. Thank you for staying apart to play your part.

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New Quay RNLI rescue two people in the water

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ON FRIDAY (Jul 16), New Quay RNLI’s inshore lifeboat was requested to launch by HM Coastguard following reports of two people in the water off Ynys Lochtyn, near Llangrannog, having capsized their kayak. 

At 10.40am New Quay’s inshore lifeboat Audrey LJ launched with three volunteer crew members on board and made good speed down the coast in excellent weather conditions. 

Huw Williams, New Quay RNLI’s helm said, “When we arrived on scene we found one person had made it back onto the kayak and one still in the water. Both had been in the water for 30 minutes and were struggling in the tidal current so it was important that we got them on board to be assessed.  

“The Coastguard Rescue Helicopter was also tasked but was stood down after we confirmed that both casualties were safe and well, with no injuries. 

“Having got the casualties and the kayak onto the lifeboat we transferred them to Llangrannog beach where we handed over to the RNLI lifeguards and the New Quay Coastguard rescue team.” 

It was also a first shout for New Quay RNLI’s newest crew member, Will Best.  

Will is an international yachtsman and, sailing on the yacht Alegre, he has chalked up wins in both the Rolex Middle Sea and Giraglia Races. He was also navigator on board the winning 2011 Sydney to Hobart race boat Loki. As well as sailing competitively, Will specialises in the design and installation of electronic systems on Grand Prix race boats and super yachts. He has also worked with a number of America’s Cup and Volvo race teams.  

Roger Couch, New Quay RNLI’s Lifeboat Operations Manager said, “Will brings a wealth of seafaring knowledge and is a great addition to the crew. Welcome on board Will!” 

Will added, “It has been great to join the New Quay RNLI crew. They are a great team and I’m glad I’ve got my first shout under my belt.”

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Man, 22, charged with murder of John William Bell in Cardigan

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A CARDIGAN man has been charged with murder after a man’s death in Ceredigion.

Dyfed-Powys Police said 22-year-old Ashley Keegan, of Golwg y Castell, Cardigan, has been charged with his murder.

A Dyfed-Powys Police spokesperson said: “Dyfed-Powys Police can confirm that Ashley Keegan, aged 22, of Golwg y Castell, Cardigan, has been charged with the murder of John William Bell.

“Keegan will appear at Swansea magistrates court on Saturday 24th July 2021.

“John’s family continue to be supported by specialist officers and the investigation is grateful for the support of the community whilst enquiries were conducted.”

This is the second major incident in the same area this month.

Another man was charged with making threats with a knife, he is again from Golwg y Castell.

Dyfed-Powys Police said they received a number of calls reporting a man brandishing a knife towards another man in Maesyfelin, Cardigan, at around 4.20pm on Wednesday (July 14).

Several police units swiftly made their way to the area, but the suspect had fled.

Dean Thomas, aged 25, was quickly located at his home in Golwg y Castell, where he was arrested on suspicion of affray and taken to custody.

Mobile phone footage was gathered from people at the scene, and statements were taken from witnesses.

Cardigan Inspector Owen Williams said: “Thanks to the swift attendance of officers, there were a number of people present who were able to provide evidence to assist with our enquiries.
“Thomas also made a significant statement linking himself with the incident, and was charged within hours of being arrested.

“I hope the speed with which we carried out enquiries into this incident reassures people living in Maesyfelin, who were naturally very concerned by what had happened.”

Thomas was charged with threatening a person with a blade or sharply pointed article in a public place and appeared at Aberystwyth Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, July 15 where he admitted the offence.

He will be sentenced on July 29 at Swansea Crown Court.

In relation to the murder, anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101 and quoting Op Reedham. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.

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Devastated family’s tribute to ‘loving and devoted’ son

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THE FAMILY of the 37-year-old man who died in Cardigan in the early hours of Wednesday morning (Jul 21) have said he will be “hugely missed by all that loved him”.

John Bell, who lived in the town, was found on the road to Cardigan Bridge at around midnight.

His family has issued this statement: “We are devastated at the loss of John.

“He was a loving and devoted Son, Brother, Father and Uncle and he will be hugely missed by all that loved him. 

“We ask for privacy at this time.”

John’s family is being supported by specially trained officers.

A 22-year-old man arrested on suspicion of murder remains in police custody.

Detective Superintendent Paul Jones said: “Our thoughts go out to John’s family at this very difficult time.

“We are currently focussing our investigation in Golwg Y Castell and the road between there and Cardigan Bridge, where Mr Bell was located.

“We are appealing for any witnesses who may have seen or heard an altercation in that area during the evening of Tuesday, 20 July, particularly the latter part of the evening, after 10pm, before police attended at around midnight.”

Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org. Quote reference: DP-20210720-458.

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