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Indiana to centralize contact tracing for COVID-19 cases

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INDIANA (WPTA21) - Starting next month, the Indiana State Department of Health wants to take on all contact tracing for COVID-19 patients across the state to allow local health departments to focus on their own community needs.

Historically, local health departments have taken the lead on contract tracing in their communities, with some help from the ISDH.

The IDSH is currently doing investigations and contact tracing for 16 counties.

But starting around May 11, they'll be handling those investigations for all 92 counties thanks to a $43 million contract with Maximus.

Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said timely contact tracing will be critical to controlling the ongoing spread on a wide scale.

This is vital for reopening our economy so that health officials can quickly test and then isolate those who are infected.

What is contact tracing?

Contact tracing is a way for health care professionals to determine who has been in contact with an infected person, and find out what level of exposure they may have had.

From there, health care professionals decide what steps should be taken to control the spread of COVID-19.

It typically starts with a phone call to the infected person, and from there, contact tracers interview the person. This can take as long as two hours.

Contact tracers also have educate the person that they need to isolate for at least 7 to 10 days, and what symptoms to look for that may suggest they need more medical help.

Next, these investigators get the phone numbers, addresses and any other contact information for anyone they may have come in close contact with.

Each case typically has about 10 additional contacts health departments need to reach out to to inform them they need to quarantine for 14 days.

Why the state is taking over contact tracing

Because people are so wary of scam phone calls, many people don't pick up the phone from legitimate contact tracers.

That's why the state will be sending out emails and text messages to infected Hoosiers to call into the hotline.

How centralized contact tracing will work

Indiana is contracting with Maximus to open a call center staffed with more than 500 people trained to conduct interviews.

Once a Hoosier tests positive for COVID-19, a notification will be sent to the centralized contact tracing system.

Then, an email and text message will be sent to the infected person.

The message will give instructions to call into the centralized contract tracing system for an interview.

If you don't call the hotline within four hours, the call center will give you a ring.

Workers at the call center will identify all close contacts of the infected person, and send emails and text messages to them as well.

Dr. Box said the call center will be operating 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Note: case investigators or tracers will never ask for your Social Security number or request money.

Freeing up resources for local health departments

With centralized contact tracing, local health departments can focus on follow-up or tracing that requires work in their own communities.

Their resources will be put to use focusing on tracing in long-term care facilities or manufacturing facilities.

Dr. Box said local health departments are best suited to connect isolated patients with community resources, like getting them food, hoursing or medication.

Coronavirus resources

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Kayla Crandall

Kayla Crandall is an Emmy award-winning journalist. She serves as the Social Media and Digital Content Manager at WPTA. Follow her on Twitter @KaylerJayne.

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