Maricopa County Launches “Massive” COVID-19 Contact Tracing Effort

COVID -19, commonly known as coronavirus [Slide courtesy CDC]

PHOENIX – On Wednesday, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health announced the launch of of what it describes as a “massive scaling-up of its ongoing communicable disease investigation and contact tracing program.”

According to the Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH), the Department normally has a standing team of 16 epidemiologist investigators who investigate infectious diseases, such as mumps or pertussis. The process is known as contact tracing efforts for those cases.

Now MCDPH is now implementing a plan that has already offered positions to 33 individuals..

“Thanks to a huge effort from multiple parts of Maricopa County government, we have been able to condense a hiring process from an average of 45 days to 10 days to respond our community’s needs,” said Marcy Flanagan, executive director of MCDPH. “Our goal with this plan is to ensure that by July 1, Public Health has the capacity to contact 400-500 cases per day, seven days a week.”

According to MCDPH, when an person tests positive for COVID-19, MCDPH is notified of that test result and opens an investigation. Epidemiology investigators reach out to that person and conduct a thorough interview in an effort to uncover all the places and people they were in contact with starting from 48 hours before their symptoms started.

The investigator then provides the person with instructions for infection control for themselves and their household, managing their health, and when to seek additional care.

The people will also be asked to enroll in a “secure electronic system to track their symptoms for at least 10 days after symptoms started so Public Health can tell them when they no longer need to isolate.”

“Starting as early as next week, once we receive confirmation of a positive diagnostic test, we will send cases a text message with a link to a survey that will collect their initial symptoms and provide tailored instructions to follow until they get a call from a Public Health investigator,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for disease control at MCDPH. “This will ensure that the case knows to remain isolated from others and help us to expedite the investigation.”

MCDPH will not be asking personal health information or financial information through this survey. If someone receives a text asking for personal health information or financial information, people should not click any links and should not share their sensitive information.

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