Why Phone Calls Might Be an Effective COVID-Fighting Technology

Why Phone Calls Might Be an Effective COVID-Fighting Technology

(TNS) — Through the ebbs and flows of the coronavirus pandemic, the phone calls have kept coming.

A small army of contact tracers has worked to stem transmissions by dialing Marylanders infected with COVID-19 to ask that they isolate and consider who else they may have exposed so they, too, could be rung up.

A small army of so-called contact tracers has worked to stem transmissions by dialing Marylanders infected with COVID-19 to ask that they isolate themselves and consider who else they may have exposed so they, too, could be rung up.

More than a million calls later, the massive effort was supposed to end next month with the closing of the state’s main call center, which is run by NORC, a nonprofit affiliate of the University of Chicago.

Instead, the more contagious delta variant is fueling a new wave of infections and state health officials are scrambling to rehire tracers let go during COVID downtimes and find new ones to investigate cases — which could rise further with students returning to school.

“We anticipated the potential surge this fall and worked with NORC to add contact tracers,” said Marcia Pearlowitz, contact tracing unit chief for the Maryland Department of Health.

“But adding contact tracers isn’t easy,” she said. “They require training.”

The situation has frustrated public health officials, who said last year that tracing would be needed until vaccines were widely available. But many people chose not to get the shots, and others were infected with the delta variant after they were vaccinated. A quarter of the calls now go to those with such breakthrough infections.

The state had let the call center’s tracers drop to about 200, close to a third of its peak employment. It now seeks to add at least an additional 100 tracers, Pearlowitz said. Another 500 to 600 tracers work for local health departments. The cost of continuing the tracing programs, and what has been spent so far, isn’t clear. The state allocated $35 million for the NORC contract before extending it beyond next month and an additional $4 million for tracking technology, all from federal sources.

Complicating hiring, many people who staffed call centers were school nurses or others who volunteered when schools or businesses were closed but now have returned to their previous jobs. Still, Pearlowitz said, it’s a boon to schools to have experienced tracers among their staffs to help control spread. The scramble for tracers speaks to the disinvestment in public health resources in non-pandemic times, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association and a former Maryland health secretary.

He has advocated for using federal dollars to build and maintain a ready workforce for a range of public health needs, including contact tracing, a longtime bread-and-butter task in local departments for all manner of infectious disease control. Benjamin also called for a tougher stance on vaccinations to control the pandemic, since most of the severe COVID-19 cases are among the unvaccinated.

“I’m for mandates because we’ve already tried all the carrots,” Benjamin said. Benjamin spoke Thursday, just hours before Democratic President Joe Biden issued a plan that will require large private employers to vaccinate or regularly test employees. It also includes mandates for federal employees, the military and anyone who works in a health care facility that accepts Medicare or Medicaid dollars. The orders are expected to affect tens of millions of people.

Some Maryland businesses and universities, and all hospitals and nursing homes, already have required shots or regular testing for those exempted. Close to 82% of Marylanders have gotten at least one shot, but the delta variant of the virus continues to find targets. After easing this spring, cases began rising again in July and exceeded 1,000 new daily cases in the state in August.

Disclaimer: If you need to edit or update this news from compsmag then kindly contact us Learn more

For Latest News Follow us on Google News


Latest Headlines
  • Show all
  • Trending News
  • Popular By week
How about 'Monkey Business' in Clinton?
San Francisco promises to crack down on retail shoplifting
The frustration and fear have been fueled by widely circulating images of shoplifting caught on video. This summer, shoplifters in masks carrying armfuls of ...
Statewide Safety Systems unveiling new Tulsa office
Statewide Safety Systems unveiling new Tulsa office
Located southward of the downtown Atlantic at 4422 W. 49th Street, it represents the prototypal instance they module carry playing in the Sooner state. ...
Microsoft unveils the Surface Duo 2, a dual-screen Android phone with larger screens and 5G connectivity
Microsoft unveils the Surface Duo 2, a dual-screen Android phone with larger screens and 5G connectivity
The gist of the Surface Duo 2 is that two screens are better than one. To that end, Microsoft has combined two panels with a hinge to make an Android-powered ...
United Airlines claims that 97% of US employees have been vaccinated
United Airlines claims that 97% of US employees have been vaccinated
Six United employees sued United this week claiming that the airline is discriminating against employees who get exemptions from the vaccine mandate by ...
Improve access to course materials and save students money with Inclusive Access
Improve access to course materials and save students money with Inclusive Access
Hit the ground running on Day 1 next semester while helping your students save money through Inclusive Access! Join the other 580 courses already using ...
With an AI-powered ‘Beauty Mode,’ HP’s Spectre x360 has a webcam
With an AI-powered ‘Beauty Mode,’ HP’s Spectre x360 has a webcam
HP announced its newest range of devices on September 21, including laptops, displays and tablets designed to let you switch between productivity, creativity ...
Just Don’t Buy a MacBook Pro Right Now, A Warning
Just Don’t Buy a MacBook Pro Right Now, A Warning
That’s because the MacBook Pro is on the brink of its most meaningful upgrade in half a decade. Buy one now and no sooner will you get it in your hands than ...
You’ll save over $300 with this Dell Gaming Laptop Deal
You’ll save over $300 with this Dell Gaming Laptop Deal
A fast, powerful, dependable gaming laptop with a fantastic screen, the Dell G15 Gaming Laptop will have you dominating in no time. It’s got excellent ...
Here’s the best Core i3 laptop for businesses at the lowest price
Here’s the best Core i3 laptop for businesses at the lowest price
You can pick it from a nearby store in 30 minutes and it comes with free next business day delivery. If you’re on the look out for a bargain laptop deal, ...
OnePlus 10 — early rumors and the upgrades we want
OnePlus 10 — early rumors and the upgrades we want
According to one early leak, the OnePlus 10 is going to be a “polished series 9”, suggesting that the phones wouldn’t look that different from the OnePlus 9 ...
Show next
Compsmag - Latest News from tech, business and health
Logo