Maryland to boost contact tracing capacity in local health departments

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WDVM) — Maryland is increasing its number of contact tracers and is expected to have over 1,400 people who will investigate and track those who might have been in contact with the novel coronavirus.

Governor Larry Hogan said Thursday that statewide contact tracing will be “fully operational” next week, across all 24 jurisdictions in Maryland. With this, local health departments should be able to track 1,000 COVID-19 cases and 10,000 contacts each day, according to Hogan.

“Participating with the state’s contact tracing program helps keep you, your family, your neighbors, co-workers, and community safe from this disease. Please answer the phone if you see ‘MD COVID’ on the screen; working with our COVID-19 case investigators truly can help save lives,” said Fran Phillips, Deputy Secretary for Public Health at the Maryland Department of Health. The state’s press release also said that contact tracers will never identify the infected person by name when they reach out to people who may have been exposed to the virus.

This launch comes after Hogan announced a contract about one month ago, with the National Opinion Research Center, to hire and train additional case investigators.

How do you know if a contact tracer is attempting to reach you? The governor’s office described the process as follows:

When the phone rings, the caller ID will read “MD COVID.” Depending on whether the contact investigator is calling directly from NORC or a local health department, there will also be a list of phone numbers provided to verify the caller’s identity. They will ask about one’s health, any potential symptoms, and the duration of those symptoms. They may ask about an individual’s whereabouts and interactions for a specific period of time. Guidance will be provided regarding self-isolation and monitoring for symptoms. They will ask for verification of date of birth and additional contact information, and if an individual has already tested positive for COVID-19, they may request details regarding that test.

A contact investigator will never ask for a Social Security number, financial or bank account information, or personal details unrelated to COVID-19. They will not ask for photographs or videos, passwords, or payment. “

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