A sprawling “starburst” of COVID-19 infection can spring from a single person before they test positive or are isolated.
This leads to a plethora of potentially infected people to track down and isolate.
If someone hears from “Henry” calling on “behalf of NSW Health”, they could be speaking to Army reservist Lance Corporal Henry Hudson.
He is one of about 30 Navy and Army personnel helping NSW Health trace COVID-19 cases.
People confirmed COVID-19 positive are interviewed and NSW Health disseminates a list of close contacts for the team to follow up.
“Sometimes we’re the first one to break the news they might be at risk and need to get tested or isolate,” Lance Corporal Hudson said.
“About 60 per cent seem to have an idea and they are pretty receptive of the call, some others are a bit sceptical.
“Just having someone on the other end of the line from NSW Health breaking the news is pretty confronting,” he said.
To make the process easier, Lance Corporal Hudson guides people through a process that starts with confirming their name.
“We don’t want to drop a bomb on the wrong person,” he said.
“From there it’s gentle and like telling a story - ‘were you at this place on this date?’.
“Some may see it coming, others may not have been expecting it; we reassure them by saying ‘we’re not telling you you’re positive, but you need to take precautions’.
“Some say ‘ok’, some have tears, sometimes anger.
“We try to give them a hug over the phone and say it’s nothing to worry about if you just go through the steps.”
Despite frequently being asked, the team members won’t reveal the source of a suspected infection.
“A lot of people say ‘who’s the person?’ but we’re not allowed to tell them,” Lance Corporal Hudson said.
They are calling people who have been in contact with an infected person for more than two hours in a room, or who they have had more than 15 minutes of face-to-face conversation with.
“Some have recently tested positive but before they suspected, were going about their daily lives,” he said.
The team also helps arrange services for elderly, disabled or isolated people who have no one to bring them groceries.
“Some calls are very simple, while others might have a fair bit involved,” Lance Corporal Hudson said.
“We may have to help or assist with welfare issue and make multiple calls to individuals."
When not in the Army Reserve, Lance Corporal Hudson works for Campos Coffee as head barista at Barangaroo.