Contact tracing is critical to quickly identifying where COVID-19 is present and preventing the spread of this virus. Contact tracers help to do this by calling each individual who has received a positive test result. This is a confidential phone call.
What is contact tracing
Contact tracing for COVID-19 helps identify all individuals who were in close contact with a person who has tested positive for the illness. Based on CDC guidance, those that would be considered close contacts of a positive case and who would need to self-isolate are household members, intimate partners, individuals providing care to a case in a household without using recommended infection control precautions, and other individuals who have had close contact. Close contact is defined as less than 6 feet of distance between yourself and another person who could have the coronavirus for a minimum of 15 minutes.
The Department of Health has selected partners to both develop and implement a solution to do this both efficiently and in a manner that protects public health. Additionally, patient privacy during contact tracing is important and calls will be completed using HIPAA compliant call centers.
How contact tracing works
If you are a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and you get a phone call from a contact tracer, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, we all have equal chances of getting this virus. The call will come from the Louisiana Department of Health at this number: 877-766-2130.
It is important for you to have an honest conversation with the person on the other end of the phone. This person will ask you questions about when you began to have symptoms, when you got tested, why you decided to get tested and they will ask you questions about some of the people you have been spending time with. They may even ask you for phone numbers of some of your close contacts.
When the contact tracer calls your close contacts they will never identify you, share your name or your health information. They will talk to your close contacts about their own health, ask if they are having any symptoms and then they may offer guidance or instructions to self-isolate. This is how we contain this virus. If we are sick or if we may be sick, we self-isolate for an amount of time when we know we can no longer spread the virus to someone else.
Contact tracers will never ask you for financial information. If you are asked for financial information by someone claiming to be a contact tracer employed by the Department, hang up immediately and call 877-766-2130.
Sample phone call
This is an example of how a contact tracing call will go. This is only an example.
Hi, this is [caller’s first name] calling on behalf of the Louisiana Office of Public Health, I am calling to speak with [first name] regarding their recent illness. May I please speak with [first name]?
- If the case is a minor: May I please speak with the parent or guardian of [minor’s first name]?
- If the person answering says that the patient is unable to speak right now due to illness or incapacitation: Would you be willing to answer some questions on their behalf? If they agree, What is your name and relationship to [Case]? First, how are they doing?
- If they are not willing to answer questions on the cases behalf: Do you know anyone who would be able to answer some questions regarding their illness? Could you give me their name and phone number so I can try to reach them?
- If the person who answers does not speak English, try to communicate that you will call back with a translator, and then call back with a translator.
"First, I’d like to ask you about any gatherings you may have attended since two days prior to symptom onset. Have you been to any parties, religious services, sporting events or other social events between [time period]? We are looking for any gatherings where you would have been in close proximity with other individuals.”
- Please think back to [dates of infectiousness]. Tell me of any of these types of gatherings that you have been a part of. Please also let me know the dates of these events as well as a rough estimate of the number of people in attendance.
- If any of these events occurred within 48 hours of symptom onset: Tell me about the people you have been in close contact with. Please share the name and number of the person in charge if it’s a religious service or social club/gathering (if possible) so we can reach out to them and alert them as well.
- Please list the name and a contact number of anyone you came into close contact with at this [event] so we can reach out to them and tell them to quarantine for the next 14 days. Once again, we will be reaching out to them anonymously and your name won’t be mentioned.
- I now want to ask you about two groups of individuals that you were most likely to have come in close contact with two days before you started showing symptoms until now: members of your household and coworkers, I first want to ask you about your household and living arrangements.
How to become a contact tracer
Four call centers are hiring contact tracers. At this time the Department has received an overwhelming number of inquiries and applications for contact tracing positions and has forwarded these to the hiring agencies for review.
To be a contact tracer, minimum requirements are that you must be a high school graduate, feel comfortable having a telephone conversation with someone and entering data, be compassionate, able to protect and honor patient privacy, and you must complete a very detailed training session. Backgrounds in public health are particularly desirable. Individual call centers are hiring directly, and may have additional requirements.
Apply directly to the call centers below to be considered for these positions. All hiring decisions are made directly by the hiring agencies.
- Hammerman & Gainer International, Inc.
- Volunteers of America (VOA) is specifically hiring individuals with a background in social work or human services as they are staffing teams in each region of the state that will assess the needs of individuals in quarantine and link them to support in their communities.