Local News

Contact tracers are calling on you

Posted June 9, 2020 11:58 a.m. EDT
Updated June 10, 2020 10:35 a.m. EDT

With the number of coronavirus cases climbing in North Carolina, the state now has a fortified tool to fight the virus: 250 new contact tracers.

After more than a week of tightly packed protests across the state, public health leaders are concerned about potential COVID-19 spread, but say it’s too early to pinpoint related outbreaks. For now, contact tracers are reaching out to others at risk.

"Most people that we speak to are not surprised that we’re calling," says Hallie Yamamoto. She’s a librarian at Green Road Community Library and one of 110 trained contact tracers in Wake County.

They call, text, and email those with prolonged close contact to people confirmed to have the virus. "It’s typically a close friend, a family member. If it happened at work, someone already had to tell the manager," says Yamamoto.

One challenge is building trust and protecting privacy, says State Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore. "It only works if somebody picks up the phone or returns the text or is willing to talk with us. People should know that while public health does try to reach out to everyone, they’re also careful to protect people’s personal information."

So aside from wear, wait and wash, the public also needs to pick up the phone and continue to follow the advice of public health officials. "The best way that we can get community buy in right now is to contact people as quickly as possible once they’ve been exposed and help them to understand that hey, you need to stay home," says Yamamoto.

If you get a phone call from a contact tracer, the caller identification should either show up as your local health department or NC Outreach.

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