Community Health Nurses Work To Help Slow COVID-19

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ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – Community Health Nurses are part of the public health effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The nurses work in county health departments and assist people on a number of medical issues including helping pregnant women and new mothers, rabies investigations and immunizations.

Recently, nurses in Tompkins County talked about their work during the ongoing pandemic.

Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Radio

Maintaining safe distancing. Karen LaCelle (left) is a Community Health Nurse, Karen Bishop (right) is Director of Community Health in the Tompkins County Health Department. (Celia Clarke/WSKG)

Karen LaCelle specializes in contact investigations. She is one of about two dozen community health nurses in Tompkins County now working with COVID-19 patients.

They call people with their test results and notify close contacts that they have to go into quarantine even if they don’t feel sick.

LaCelle said notifying contacts is a key step in containing the spread of the virus. Quarantine and isolation are two different things. She explained that the nurses describe it as quarantining the well and isolating the sick.

“In their home we ask them to isolate in their own bedroom and bath and wear a mask if they have to happen to be in a public area and still be distanced, and, so, that’s a lot of information to give people,” said LaCelle. “That’s a lot of questions they may have with that, so we can spend hours going through all this.”

From that point on, a community health nurse checks in with each person daily to see how they are feeling, answer any questions and, if necessary, put them in contact with others who can help them while they are confined to their home.

The nurses also decide when someone is well enough to be released from isolation or quarantine or if someone needs to go to the hospital.

According to LeCelle, the contact investigation interviews have changed lately.

“We’re finding that social distancing is impacting our contact investigations in that people are not having as many contacts,” she said. “So, that’s a positive thing.”

Even so, she said it’s still necessary for people to understand they have to be in quarantine or isolation.

Tompkins County has tested over 2,500 people for COVID-19.