BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - There’s a chance you will get a call from one of those contact tracers the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) hired to help track the spread of COVID-19. This unfamiliar number, 877-766-2130, might pop up on your caller ID.
State leaders are encouraging you to answer.
“It’s just an opportunity to let them know that they may have potentially been exposed to someone that’s tested positive for COVID-19,” said Omar Khalid, chief of staff for the Office of Public Health with LDH.
The government is hiring contact tracers to call COVID-19 positive patients. They ask the patient who they might have been around 48 hours before their diagnosis. If you get that call, you shouldn’t panic if you don’t remember the woman next to you in the grocery line.
“It’s not going to be people that you walked by on the street briefly outside. This is going to be close contact, which is someone that’s been within six feet of you for 15 minutes or more. For the most part, these should be people that you remember being around,” Khalid said.
The COVID-19 patient shares names and a phone number if they have it. You might get a call from this number, 877-766-2130.
Khalid says COVID-19 positive patients aren’t required to provide information, but it’s encouraged.
“It’s not anyone coercing you to do anything or to provide any information you’re not comfortable with sharing," he said.
He says any information shared is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). He also says the contact tracers will not share the name of the positive patient, nor will they share how that information was obtained. He says this is to avoid being able to identify the COVID positive patient.
Contact tracers will use that same number to connect with everyone. You are encouraged to save it in your phone so you’ll know it’s not a scam. Khalid says you will not receive a text message or an email; all data will be collected over the phone. However, he says they’re working to expand their communication options in the future.
LDH says the public has done a good job of containing the spread thus far, but as people move around, more could be exposed. This simple phone call helps the government track how fast we can see schools and mom and pop stores reopen their doors with no restrictions.
“As we do that, we just want to have the information and know where theses cases may be spreading so we can get out ahead of them and warn people that might not otherwise know they were exposed,” Khalid said.
Khalid says LDH is still looking for contact tracers; apply here. He says this process will continue as the state reopens.
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