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Stamping out COVID-19 with contact tracing…

An opinion piece by Mark Winter – Chief Executive Officer inTechnology Distribution

You’ve probably heard a lot lately about contact tracing along with widespread testing and social distancing as important public health tools to try to stop infectious disease outbreaks like COVID-19.

As we enter a new phase of this global pandemic and countries start to reopen their economies amid ongoing outbreaks, (in my opinion) governments are doing their best in providing testing and have spent tens of millions of dollars on awareness campaigns, focused on the importance of social distancing and the wearing of facemasks. But, will this be enough to stamp out this hideous disease?

The big question is, what can we do as businesses owners and executives to help provide a COVID safe workplace for our staff, whilst also protecting the livelihood of our organisations? Two simple words, Contact Tracing!

Keeping our organisations trading is as important to the recovery efforts as stamping out this bloody horrible disease.

Let me explain what contact tracing is, and how it can help your organisation keep your doors open even if someone in your team contracts COVID-19, or any infectious disease for that matter.

NOTE: I don’t mean tracking your every move with an app that could potentially capture more than just who you have come in contact with (and I’m not a conspiracy theorist).

The concept of contact tracing within an organisation is extremely simple and allows you to quickly identify people who have had close contact with someone diagnosed with an infectious disease, like COVID-19.

Let me tell you how we use it….

We have a small Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) watch sized tag that sits on the wrist of our employees. If they come within a specified distance (this is determined and configured based on our corporate policy), each tag will make a chirping sound and vibrate. This alerts the team member that they are breaching our social distancing policy and alerts them that this contact is being logged to help protect them should either employee become infected.

Let me give you my example: If it turns out that I come down with COVID-19 or another infectious disease, our team simply navigates to our contact tracing dashboard, where they can see whom I’ve come in contact with over the last x number of days (this is configurable within the system, i.e. 14, 30, 45 or 90 days).

We can also drill down into different contact levels to see who may have been exposed indirectly through those whom I have come in direct contact with. This allows us to easily identify and quarantine any staff member that I have had indirect contact with stopping the chain of transmission to others.

Look at it like this:

  • We’re a company of 500 people

  • I’ve had contact with 26 staff, directly or indirectly over the last 14 days

  • We quarantine and test those 26 individuals and allow our other 474 staff to continue working, as we can see and show that they have not been exposed and do not pose a health risk to any other staff members.

So why aren’t more companies like us taking up contact tracing technology internally, protecting their staff and their business when you consider the cost in not doing so?

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So why aren’t more companies like us taking up contact tracing technology internally, protecting their staff and their business when you consider the cost in not doing so?

Let’s say my company with 500 employees pays an average annual salary of $75,000. This means we pay our team around $288 per day/employee. So, the cost for us to shut down the company, test and quarantine all our team for a 14-day period (2 weeks), would be $1.44mil in staff wages alone, not calculating any loss of revenue during this period.

So, why aren’t more companies like us taking up contact tracing technology to protect their staff and their business?

The contact tracing solution we are using costs less than 90cents per day/employee. To me, that’s not a bad deal, all things considered.

If you don’t want to listen to me, listen to some of the “experts”!

Crystal Watson, a senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and co-author of a major report on public health’s ongoing role in reopening America recently said,

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“contact tracing is the best tool we have to manage this in an ongoing way and allow our economy to open up again”.

– Crystal Watson

And former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is helping lead the effort, said in a statement.

“One of the most important steps to take to reopen the economy as safely as possible is to create a system of contact tracing. When social distancing is relaxed, contact tracing is our best hope for isolating the virus when it appears — and keeping it isolated”.

-Michael Bloomberg

I haven’t publicly listed the product we are using, however, if you would like to know more about it, feel free to message Mark directly.


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