Local council of governments grapples with cross-jurisdiction contact tracing

FILE - In this Aug. 13, 2020, file photo, nurse practitioner Debbi Hinderliter, left, collects a sample from a woman at a coronavirus testing site near the nation's busiest pedestrian border crossing in San Diego. U.S. health officials have sparked a wave of confusion after posting guidelines that coronavirus testing is not necessary for people who have been in close contact with infected people. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)(AP/Gregory Bull)
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments is working to figure out how best to implement contact tracing for individuals who move across jurisdictional lines often.

Jennifer Schitter, principal health planner at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, gave an update during the council’s virtual meeting Wednesday on what D.C.-area coronavirus tracking will look like.

“If a Virginia resident had adequate exposure to a case at their work in D.C., D.C. would transfer this individual’s information to Virginia to begin that contact tracing process,” Schitter said.

The council put together a group of 20 to 30 health representatives who are meeting on a weekly basis to work out details.

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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

The process will include D.C., Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia transferring contact tracing data on the Association of Public Health Laboratories platform.

“Contacts need to be transferred to the jurisdiction of where they reside to ensure they’re aware of the laws, regulations and guidelines of their home state,” Schitter said.

They’re working on not only the technical aspect of how the data sharing would work, but on reporting details as well.

“So when to share, how to share and even a standard template for sharing,” she said.

Who would monitor someone diagnosed with the coronavirus who lives in D.C. and is currently staying on a college campus in Maryland?

“The jurisdiction of where they lay their head at night,” Schitter said.

They are currently in the testing phase of the APHL platform, which they are calling “AIMS.”

Schitter said that they are actively working with states to speed up the testing phase.

After the testing phase, Schitter said that both the states and APHL are looking to promote the practice nationally.

She said that the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments would then step back and APHL would take over the sharing process.

“For example — they would ensure files don’t sit on the platform over 24 hours before being retrieved, and APHL would continue to provide that technical assistance to states as they come on board,” Schitter said.

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Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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