Contact tracers and case investigators handle COVID-19 cases in Pima County

What you should know if you get a call
Posted at 6:19 AM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-01 13:05:49-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — When a positive case of COVID-19 gets counted that’s just the beginning, contact tracers and case investigators -- activate and track down those who need to know.

So far, there have been more than 200,000 positive cases Arizona since the start of the pandemic creating a need for more tracing.

Matthew Christenberry with the Pima County Health Department says they have 25 investigators and 127 tracers up and running. In July, the county signed a $10 million deal with Maximus Health Services to train the staff.

“Confidentiality is so important. We’re going to ask them how they’re doing, if they’ve had symptoms we’ll ask when those symptoms started,” Christenberry said.

Case investigators call the original carrier to find out who they’ve had contact with, then contact tracers track down the exposed individual to give them recommendations on how to stay safe. Officials say privacy laws don’t allow contact tracers can't reveal information about the person who tested positive and details about the original carrier are not released to the tracers.

"The goal is to reach out to everybody and identify if they are a case or a contact and educate and inform them of what they need to know,” Christenberry said.

Officials say they have had a hard time getting people to answer the phone to track the cases.

"If someone tested positive, we’re trying to contact them, they might not answer the phone. Someone who tests positive they might not give contacts,” Christenberry said.

Another issue is scammers digging for information. According to the health department, tracers do need to confirm your identity, but will only ask for your name, birthdate, address, email and phone number.

Tracers and investigators will never ask for financial information, social security numbers, immigration status, marital status or details about your health insurance

“We’re going to tell you who we are where we’re from the Pima County Health Department,” Christenberry said.

Teams will call 7 days a week between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. from numbers starting with: 520-724-xxxx or 833-771-xxxx.

The Pima County Health Department should also pop up on your caller ID. They will try three times and leave a voicemail if needed.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen in a month or this winter, that kind of stuff, so we’re not planning to let the gas up anytime soon,” Christenberry said.

Bilingual workers and translators are also available and calls can take between 20 and 45 minutes to complete

So far there’s no word on the exact number of contacts made in the county.

Online you can find Pima County Free Testing Sites.

Follow the link to find CDC guidelines, and contact tracing guidance.