Memoirs of a tracker: “The sixth wave pushed us to the limit”

Currently, Gran Canaria trackers operate from Infecar. / COBER

Armando Rivero tells how, in two and a half years, he went from trying to cut off transmission of the virus to monitoring its progress among vulnerable people

Carmen Delia Aranda

The life of Armando Rivero, like that of almost all Spaniards, took an unexpected turn in March 2020 when the pandemic broke out.

At that time,
the nurse left his post at the Agaete health center to devote himself to following the trail of the new virus, a task in which he is still immersed as tracker and coordinator of the primary care management monitoring team in Gran Canaria.
This job changed the way you see the world. “Today is a bad day for us,” Rivero said Aug. 4.

The toilets, linked to Agaete, know what La Rama means for the assholes and for the island, but
fears that this massive celebration will result in a resurgence that affects the most vulnerablethe sector of the population that monopolizes the hours of the 73 trackers who work in the Infecar compound, in the capital of Gran Canaria.

The team has grown much larger, with 150 trackers among doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, soldiers, midwives, social workers, librarians, administrative technicians or nurses. ”
As a nurse, I never thought I would work with the military or documentarians. We come from different categories but
we had one goal; identify potential positives with screening and isolate them to break the chain of transmissionexplains Rivero.

This mission has radically changed starting this year, when close contacts were no longer isolated and a gradual easing of surveillance for the virus began.

Everything changed for the better because the epidemic evolved for the better thanks to the level of immunization reached with the vaccines and the infection itself. Before the death rate from covid was very high and now the rate is very low. It allows us to lead a normal life,” says Rivero.

However, the change in strategy was difficult to assimilate for trackers who,
for almost two years they had to persecute and denounce HIV-positive people who skipped solitary confinementwhile now those infected with mild symptoms can lead normal lives and even work.

lack of cooperation

“Close contacts had to self-isolate, first 14 days, then ten days,” Rivero recalls of those days when they had to seek the collaboration of law enforcement to force some people to respect isolation.

Many complaints have been filed in the Canarian and National Police. There was one person who came to the driver’s license test positive. Many punishable things have been detected, ”recalls the tracker.

But, before arriving there, it was necessary to try to dissuade the offenders. “We had the collaboration of the Local Protection and Support Unit (UPAL) when we needed to identify the positives and explain the rules to them if they did not collaborate”, explains Rivero.

Fortunately, these situations no longer occur. “Currently, positives who are not vulnerable or outside the socio-sanitary fields can lead a normal life, taking extreme precautions.
Previously, positive and suspected cases had to be isolated“, recalls a task which, in addition to cutting the transmission, consisted in helping those who had difficulty in isolating themselves.

Complicated isolations

“A social work team cared for elderly people who couldn’t shop or throw garbage. Also
we have helped many positive canaries that had been trapped in other communities and those who had run out of accommodation reservations. Until they had a negative PCR, they couldn’t travel,” he explains.

Noah’s Arks also prevented contagion. These were accommodations for those who could not safely isolate themselves. ”
We found small houses where 8 people lived, two of whom were infected. We sent the positives to the boxes”, remembers Rivero about these enclosures which welcomed positive tourists who had just arrived on the island and who were not allowed to go to a hotel. “They stayed in the middle of nowhere.”

The bone
most painful moments He experienced them at the start of the pandemic, when it was common to follow people who could not say their last goodbye to a deceased loved one.

“We had complicated calls to those isolated by close contacts who had a family member in intensive care. Not being able to see the member of his family and not knowing how he will evolve, it’s hard,” he said.

helpless moments

Tracers now identify and track the virus in the settings of people over 60, pregnant and vulnerable.
Each tracker makes about 25 calls a day, but they hit 70. “In the sixth wave, we reached our limit. Many cases came out and we couldn’t cope. It was a moment of helplessness. We couldn’t cut the chain.”

Before, you had to ask each positive who they had been with in the 48 hours before the onset of symptoms, identify and locate these people, summon them for a test and isolate them for ten days. Now vulnerable positives are called in, told about precautionary measures, they are medically assessed and told what symptoms to watch out for and what to do if they get worse. For those aged 60 to 79, a follow-up appointment is scheduled, while trackers follow the evolution of the over 80s.
“Now it’s easier,” he said with relief.

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