Telephone interviews with zéeo patients are long and exhaustive. Drawing. - Serge Pouzet - Sipa

  • The “Contact Tracing” platforms are responsible 7 days a week for reporting contact cases of new patients.
  • In Toulouse, 35 voluntary Social Security agents carry out this hunt by telephone, with tact and humanity.
  • In three weeks of deconfinement, they reassembled the contact cases of 135 positive Covid people, a rather reassuring number.

"Have you had the results of this test?" Stéphanie *, the Social Security agent, asked the question warmly and tactfully. The verdict of the test, she already knows it. And it is positive, otherwise she would not call this "patient zero". Generally, the patient is already aware but you never know. If he has to be told at all jitters that he has Covid-19, a doctor takes over. But for this young man joined this Thursday, the bad news seems to be digested. Stéphanie can continue: "First, are you all right? »Then« Do you have a few minutes to answer a short questionnaire? "Or" Do you have masks? "

These 35 questions, the 35 volunteer agents of the Toulouse “Contact tracing” platform have repeated them 135 times, for the 135 cases new cases detected in two weeks in the Haute-Garonne. "We treat on average 10 new cases per day which is far below what had been estimated," says Stéphane Cobigo, the deputy director of CPAM 31. No peak, for now, even if seven new names are appeared this Thursday morning on the software “now well established” which links general practitioners and laboratories to this cell, very far from the call center that we imagine.

Some “zero patients” ask for anonymity

The agents requisitioned the deserted premises of the Espace Santé on Place Saint-Etienne on three floors, right in the city center. To trace contact cases and “break the chains of contamination”, investigative “callers”, a very feminized profession, are often alone in an office with the name of planet, like “Saturn” or “Venus”. They are therefore calm "for the interview, long and humane" with zero patients.

Patients, inevitably anxious, but who with a few exceptions "appreciate the approach", underlines Nathalie Lagrace, the head of the cell. They understand the principle of this health survey. On the other hand, there can be “more tense reactions” and “more delicate” conversations with the sometimes surprised contact cases who are called to ask them to go for screening. There are also zero patients who ask to remain anonymous with their contact cases "which complicates the questions a little," she says.

A meal of deconfinement and a hermit

Some 300 contact persons were reached in two weeks. This is little. "Because it only concerns a possible prolonged and close contact, without mask and in a confined space", explains Jean-Yves Fatras, the referent doctor of the platform. It was not uncommon at the start of deconfinement that the investigation was confined to the spouse, even if "this week, the lists are getting longer". In addition, if the zero patient works in a school, a nursing home, in short a sensitive community with risk of cluster, "Contact Tracing" hands over to the brigades of the regional health agency.

For more “ordinary” cases, the cell gives itself “4 hours from the time of the alert to get the thread of the ball,” says Nathalie Lagrace. "Completeness and speed" guide the success of the mission. As proof, some zero patients from this Thursday morning turn out to be the contact cases of a zero patient from last week: the "family meal" of deconfinement went wrong but the screening worked.

Our deconfinement file

There is nevertheless a contact case which makes the offices of the Place Saint-Etienne in effervescence. A lady, unreachable for several days despite calls and SMS. "But our team is motivated and the mission is important," insists the manager. The platform has access to the files of the Social Security medical service, possible mutual insurance, pharmacy where it would have its habits ... without obviously betraying medical confidentiality. Health detectives will eventually find her, this hermit.

* The first name has been changed


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  • Deconfinement
  • Covid 19
  • Coronavirus
  • Society
  • Health
  • Toulouse