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Contact tracing efforts in Pima County continue with the help of new tactics

Posted at 6:22 AM, Sep 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-21 09:22:27-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - Months ago the Pima County Health Department and Maximus Health Services joined forces to expand local COVID-19 contact tracing efforts, and now we know how those efforts are going.

RELATED: Pima County partners with Maximus Health Services to expand on local COVID-19 contact tracing efforts

Matthew Christenberry who works with the Pima County Health Dept., told KGUN9 lower case numbers than we saw back in July has made it simpler when it comes to case investigating and contact tracing.

“We have the staff, we have the program and we have the processes in place to build a response to cases and their contacts now," he said.

Christenberry said initially Maximus was looking to hire roughly 120 contact tracers, which are the people calling those who've come in contact with someone who's tested positive for COVID-19, but ended up hiring 75 after reevaluating. He told KGUN9 they ended up hiring 20 case investigators, which are those contacting people who've tested positive for COVID-19.

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He said of all the positive COVID-19 cases case investigators try to get a hold of, they only reach slightly more than half.

“We reach around 51 percent of all of our cases, actually get them on the phone and talk to them," said Christenberry.

He added that although the number of positive COVID-19 cases has decreased, getting a hold of those who've tested positive to notify them of their status continues being the biggest issue with contact tracing, which is why Maximus and the health department are trying new tactics

"We started sending them a text message before we ever call them just as a general notification saying 'hey we’re going to reach out to you during this approximate time', because we know some people don’t answer their phone if they don’t recognize the number, we all understand that. So the text message is going to help them know we are going to call them," said Christenberry.

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He added that soon Maximus and the Pima County Health Department will be deploying field teams to the homes of people who've tested positive for COVID-19 and are high-risk but have not answered their phone.

“The idea is we’ll knock on their door and say 'hey we’re trying to reach you' and they’ll give us some information and try to get them to give us a call to our inbound call center because again we don’t want them to go into peoples homes and that kind of thing we’re just trying to get more people to be aware that we’re trying to reach them," he said.