Local News

State's 2-1-1 coronavirus information line staying busy after state order to stay at home

Posted March 27, 2020 10:18 p.m. EDT

— Gov. Roy Cooper's announcement on Friday of a statewide stay-at-home order that begins Monday caused a spike in traffic to 2-1-1, North Carolina's information line regarding coronavirus.

For about two hours after the governor's announcement, many people who tried to call 2-1-1 got a busy signal. Folks were jumping on their phones and dialing in by the masses. You should be able to get through now if you have a question. It's a resource many people around our state have been taking advantage of in droves.

There is a staff of about 40 people, some scattered and working from home, answering the many calls.

Handling 2-1-1 calls

"Our call volume has increased by 150 percent, so we have been getting 900-1000 calls a day, which is way higher than our normal call volume," said Heather Black, the state director of NC 2-1-1.

2-1-1 is normally a service that's available every day of the year, 24 hours a day, and is funded by the United Way. It becomes even more valuable during events like hurricanes and during something like the current coronavirus outbreak.

Handling 2-1-1 calls

"A lot of it is just reassurance and just letting our callers understand that this is a lot of information to take in," said Keisha Lewis, community resource specialist for NC 2-1-1.

2-1-1 is not for medical questions but more general ones. Call center specialists say most of the calls right now are financial or employment related.

"For the most part, it's 'Hey, I lost my job due to COVID-19. What are some of the resources available?" Lewis said.

Those on the phone have also found themselves acting as counselors to people who are isolated and want to talk. An average call lasts four minutes but calls during this outbreak have been about eight minutes.

"Most of my callers or most all of my callers at the end of the call, it's always a sign of relief, 'OK, thank you so much for explaining that to me. OK, I feel so much better'," Lewis said.

If you can't get through to the 2-1-1 line or it's a long wait on hold you should consider signing up for text alerts. You can do that by texting COVID-NC to 898211. The text alert line sends out information whenever its available and may answer some of your questions before you have to call.

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