CORONAVIRUS CRISIS

Contact Tracers Might Be Calling

Bison Blinds

June 1—On the day that the state announced they have stopped sharing zipcode and city information on Covid-19 confirmed cases, and after a weekend of crowded public spaces and public demonstrations, the State Department of Health released information explaining how they are going about contact tracing. Contact tracing is an effort to notify anyone who might have come into contact with a confirmed covid-19 patient while they were contagious.

If someone has a confirmed reported case of Covid-19, they should expect a call within 48 hours from a contact tracer. That tracer will start compiling a list and will apparently try to get contact information of your friends, family members, or anyone a positive Covid-19 patient might have come into contact with before their case was confirmed, whether they had symptoms.

The state wants you to know if you get a call, answer it. Because if you do not answer, they will use text messaging, social media or in-person contact to warn you if you have been in contact with a confirmed patient.

A news release said trained contact tracers working on behalf of state and county health departments begin most investigations with a phone call and are required to follow all scripts, policies and procedures provided by the OSDH.

The state says it has 600 trained contact tracers on the job with a goal to slow the spread of the virus that has claimed the lives of 334 Oklahomans. Tests have been given to 195,000 Oklahomans, with positive cases numbering 6,573 as of June 1, 2020.

The OSDH urges people to be aware that the State’s contact tracers will never request personal information, such as a social security number, bank account, or credit card number, nor will they send emails or texts requesting a click on a link or an attachment.

People who think they may have received a fraudulent text or other communication from someone posing as public health official should immediately contact the Oklahoma State Department of Health at (405) 271-5600.

In a video and in a document, OSDH outlines what happens with contact tracing after the state is notified that someone has a confirmed case.

Contact Tracing Overview

• A contact tracing investigation is conducted with every individual who has received a positive COVID-19 test result, whether they were tested by the State or through a private care provider.
• When a person tests positive for COVID-19, they can expect a phone call from their local county health department or an OSDH representative, usually within 48 hours. The caller ID should read “State of OK” and
come from the following number: 405-522-0001.
• A legitimate contact tracer will never ask for personal details such as a social security number, banking information, or credit card number. Those who receive a contact tracing call, and want to verify it is from the health department, are advised to call the state’s coronavirus hotline at 211 with the first and last name of the contact tracer.

Contact tracers ask for information including date of birth, address, and about any additional occupants in the home who may also be at risk of exposure. Contact tracers work with a patient to help them identify whom they have had close contact during the time they may have been infectious.

• Contact tracers then inform these individuals (a patient’s contacts) of their potential exposure as rapidly and sensitively as possible. To protect patient privacy, contacts are only informed that they may have been in close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19. They are not told the identity of the patient.
• Contacts are provided with education, information, and support to understand their risk. Contacts are informed on how monitor themselves for illness and how to curtail the possibility that of spreading the
infection to others, even if they are not experiencing symptoms.
• Contacts are encouraged to get tested as well as quarantine at home and maintain social distance (at least 6 feet) from others in the home until 14 days after their last exposure, in case they also become ill. They should monitor themselves by checking their temperature twice daily and watching for cough or shortness of breath.
• Contacts who develop symptoms should promptly isolate themselves and notify public health staff. They should be promptly tested and evaluated for infection and for the need for medical care.

OSDH does not say how the government will obtain information about persons who might have been in contact with someone with a confirmed case. However, they emphasize they will not share the infected person’s name with their contact list, citing privacy concerns.

A two minute video about contact tracing. Source: Oklahoma State Department of Health.

“Testing and contact tracing are key elements in the ongoing fight to limit the spread of COVID-19,” Interim Health Commissioner Lance Frye said. “Through public-private partnerships that include trained professionals from the Oklahoma National Guard, the University of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State University, we are pleased to have quickly grown our state’s contact tracing team to nearly 600 individuals.”

Phase Three Began June 1

Oklahoma proceeded to Phase 3 of the Open Up and Recover Safely plan Monday, June 1, directed by Governor Kevin Stitt’s office.

Under Phase 3, businesses may resume unrestricted staffing at their worksites by observing proper CDC-recommended social distancing protocols and are recommended to continue increased cleaning and disinfecting practices.

Individuals should minimize time spent in crowded environments and continue following CDC guidelines regarding social distancing.

Additionally, summer camps are allowed to open provided they follow safety guidelines. Businesses that had been operating by appointment only may begin accepting walk-in clients at their discretion.

In conjunction with the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the statewide medical community, limited visitation to hospitals may be reinstated at the discretion of the facility. 

As the data shows COVID-19 has a significantly more profound impact on the elderly and immunocompromised populations, visitation at nursing homes and long-term care facilities will remain suspended except for end-of-life situations until explicitly lifted by a future executive order. 

While the data continues to improve on a statewide level, local governments are encouraged to make decisions that best fit their communities.

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