104FW Public Health Technician keeps Wing Healthy through COVID-19 Contact Tracing Program
By Courtesy article, 104th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 23, 2021
BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. --
As the nation enters into its second year of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, it remains critical that Barnestomers stay healthy and mission-ready. One of the many ways the 104th Fighter Wing has been keeping on top of COVID-19 is through contact tracing run by the public health team from the 104th Medical Group.
To mitigate the spread of the virus on-base, one 104FW public health technician is on-call to help with the COVID-19 response efforts.
Senior Airman Weronika Baczek, a public health technician with the 104th Medical group, is in charge of running the contact tracing program on base. Making sure everyone stays safe and calls are answered, she has been working full-time to help streamline the initiative.
“Tracking people is an everyday thing,” said Baczek. “I’m actually surprised the phone hasn’t rung once since you have been here because it’s usually off the hook.”
With the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, the program was built from scratch and a process was quickly formed. A database to be filled out everyday was created for the wing, which includes who is isolated, quarantined, a travel risk, or when someone comes into contact with COVID-19.
Baczek starts the contact tracing process by asking questions from what symptoms they may or may not have to what unit and section they work in. Contact tracing is not an easy process for those performing the tracing and those having to implement the requirements.
“Having members be required to adapt to the changes has had its hardships,” said Baczek. “No one wants to be kept home and out of work for 14 days. Getting that communication across is essential and is not just for me to do because I feel like it, but it’s for their safety and the safety for everybody else at the wing,” she said.
Baczek is gaining experience accommodating to the changing climate of the COVID-19 pandemic with this program as she is helping with each person’s needs, calming them down, and communicating effectively when there is a lack of consistency in the COVID-19 protocols.
“It’s just been adapting to change,” said Baczek. “That has been the biggest thing that I have learned and how to communicate those changes that occur.”
Baczek is not the only person who has had a hand in ensuring that this program runs efficiently and effectively.
Master Sgt. Christine Lupacchino, public health flight chief with the 104th MDG, has worked alongside Baczek since standing-up the program.
“Airman 1st Class Baczek has been doing amazing work here, and I wouldn’t be able to do this whole program without her,” said Lupacchino. “She’s been picking up all of the COVID-19 calls since the get-go, and she’s been integral to getting this done.”
With Lupacchino and other medical group members on board, Baczek believes the program has been effective since its start.
“Since the implementation of the contact tracing program, we have never had more than two-percent of the base population be positive,” said Baczek.
While spikes in cases have occured in the area and surrounding communities, it has allowed for public health officials to adapt and overcome it.
“As we in public health have learned throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: if one feels symptomatic or sick in any way, they should not even show up on base,” said Baczek. “Instead they should call in and inform one’s supervisor of the situation so it will be pushed to us. This has been proved to be the most effective process,” she said.
This program has been effective in mitigating the numbers and keeping the base mission-ready.
“The whole objective of this program is to keep everybody safe, keep those numbers down, and hopefully get COVID-19 out of this base and out of this world,” said Baczek.
The 104th MDG public health personnel further advises people to check their shop’s safety protocols as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more updates.