Indiana News

COVID-19 contact tracers get to work in 21 Indiana counties

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indiana State Department of Health has hired Maximus, a health and human services company, for contact tracing to interview Hoosiers who have tested positive for the virus.

Indiana will have at least 500 contact tracers in place in the next couple of weeks.

When a person tests positive for the virus, they will be contacted by one of the contact tracers. Dr. Kristina Box, Indiana’s health commissioner, says the process is a lot like it sounds.

“Contact tracing involves asking a series of questions of people that test positive, for instance, when did the symptoms start or who they might have been in contact with. Did they go to work or school to a grocery store? Did they eat out? Did they have a family gathering? We get a list of those that they might have had close contact with and then we contact those people to see if they have symptoms,” Box said.

ISDH has awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to Maximus to provide staffing. Neither the state or Maximus provided any details of the contract. Part of the training programs were developed in Indianapolis at the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI.

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Tom Duszynski, the school’s epidemiology education director, says that contact tracing is a tried and true method of controlling the spread of diseases. 

“The sooner we can get out there, the sooner we can get our arms around this disease, the faster we can stop it. It has worked for decades. This is a tool public health has used for decades to stop many infectious diseases. The eradication of small pox would not have been possible without contact tracing,” Duszynski said.

Starting Monday, 325 contact tracers are working in 21 Indiana counties. The rest of the state will get covered by next week. 

Contact tracing is a time-consuming process that requires almost instant notification. There are apps in development but most of the contact will be by phone.

“I think the important piece here is we have to think comprehensively, right? We just can’t assume everyone is going to use the app or that everyone has a phone and that we may actually have to go door to door and talk to individuals,” said Duszynski.

The National Association of County and City Health Departments recommends 30 contact tracers to every 100,000 people, which means Indiana may need 2,000 people.

Since contact tracers have started contacting people, if you get a call from a number you don’t recognize, answer it.

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