Elliot Menze learned about the opportunity of becoming a COVID-19 contact tracer for the Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI through a news article he read in the summer of 2020.
The 2018 Carmel High School graduate is a junior at IUPUI, majoring in biochemistry. After applying to become a contact tracer, Menze was offered a position and completed training in October.
Contact tracing lets people know they have been exposed to COVID-19 and should monitor themselves for signs and symptoms. It also lets the person know they should be tested for the disease. It informs people to self-isolate if they have COVID-19 or self-quarantine if they are a close contact of someone who has it.
“I’ve learned a lot from this position, including the basics of public health work, how to be (health information privacy) compliant, and how to speak with distressed people about their health situations,” said Menze, who is interested in pursuing a career in public health or bioinformatics. “Overall, it has been a very analytical, but also very human, learning experience. The cases contact tracers deal with every day aren’t just numbers, they are people with families and concerns, and we always try our best to help inform them to keep them and the people around them safe.”
Menze received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 28 and will receive his second dose sometime this month.
“I live with my stepdad who has cancer, so I was very grateful to be able to receive this vaccine to not only protect me, but to protect him and the rest of my family as well,” Menze said. “I’ve had no reaction to the first dose of the vaccine and am planning on receiving my second dose later this month.”
Menze said he gives the same recommendation to his peers as he does with the cases he works with while contact tracing. His advice is to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state guidelines for safety to stay aware of risks that certain activities have.
“We have all had to make sacrifices because of this terrible disease, and it can be tempting to let your guard down, especially given the length of the quarantine,” he said. “It is essential to stay vigilant, though. The virus is very present in Indiana communities, and the virus doesn’t care how careful you’ve been for the past year if you get exposed now.”
Menze said he tells his friends being careful isn’t just for their own safety, but that their family, friends and co-workers depend on them to make good decisions.
“I do hope that my work as a contact tracer helps us overcome this terrible disease and leads to us being able to open up and resume life as it was before the virus came sooner rather than later,” Menze said.