The Importance of Test and Trace

The Importance of Test and Trace

By Victoria Falk, Special to CAW

The NYC Test & Trace Corps is a public health initiative to fight the threat of COVID-19. The Corps is a group of doctors, public health professionals, and community advocates working to reverse the COVID-19 outbreak and protect our city. NYC Health + Hospitals lead the Corps’ work in close collaboration with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and other city agencies.

New Yorkers have faced multiple challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rightfully, much attention has been given to our frontline and essential workers; we applaud them for all they have done to aid our city during this worldwide crisis. 

Caribbean American Weekly had the pleasure of interviewing one of the city’s unsung heroes, Ms. Karen Martin, Community Engagement Specialist, at NYC Test and Trace. During an exclusive interview with Karen Martin, she shared the importance of contact tracing, free resources available to New Yorkers, and other pertinent information for the community to know for the sake of helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19.


Listen to an interview with Ms. Karen Martin on “Test & Tracing” below:


Ms. Martin, a proud Jamaican who migrated to the United States, does not want the Caribbean community to feel leery regarding getting tested for COVID-19, the contact and tracing procedures, or gaining access to services. “Our purpose is to encourage everyone to get tested and, if you’re positive, to isolate or quarantine. That’s it. The NYC Test & Trace Corps will not ask about anyone’s immigration status. Immigration status is not an issue. We don’t speak about immigration status at all, and we observe HIPPA laws. Whatever you say to me sticks with me. Plus, the Corps database is not linked to any law enforcement databases. Any information the NYC Test & Trace Corps obtains will be stored securely and used by authorized staff for the limited purpose of protecting public health,” she emphasized.


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In addition, Ms. Martin assured Caribbean American Weekly that people need not be concerned if they struggle with English. “We have over 40 languages, plus we have access to Language Line, where we can have an interpreter join us on a visit,” shared Karen Martin.  

Photo: Karen Martin

Karen Martin explained the day-to-day activities of a Contact Tracer. She said, “Once someone is tested and they test positive, we reach out to the person who tested positive and start a trace. We encourage you to give us information about the persons you came in contact with. Our tracing is all done while observing HIPPA laws. We ask questions to jog your memory. The goal is to reach as many people as possible that you were in contact with and encourage testing and quarantine.” The outreach begins by telephone, but as Ms. Martin explained, “If we call and nobody answers, we go to the door and keep coming until you are reached. Contact tracing is so important to stop the spread of the virus.”

The work goes beyond contacting and tracing those people who tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. In addition, people who test positive are informed of and connected to services to aid them during their time of need. Karen Martin told Caribbean American Weekly some of the free services available to New Yorkers that includes: free hotel stay when people cannot safely isolate themselves at home, free cell phones for people who don’t have one so they can stay connected throughout the contact and trace process, free meals delivered to the house, medication delivered to the home by the pharmacist, and help with getting letters to give to employers for the Family Medical Leave Act to show that you are isolating due to COVID-19. 

The NYC Test & Trace Corps is fighting COVID-19 through free testing and other resources. PLEASE answer the phone if you get a call from “NYS Contact Tracing.” Answering the phone will keep your loved ones and community safe. Please visit the website: testandtrace.nyc to learn more.

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