BOSTON (CBS) — “Answer the call.” That’s the simplest thing Massachusetts residents can to do help slow the spread of the coronavirus, according to a new public service announcement promoting the state’s contact tracing program.
“Through what’s called contact tracing, the MA COVID team will be reaching out to everyone who has tested positive for coronavirus or who has been exposed,” a video released Thursday states. “Look out for area codes (833) or (857), and answer the call to keep your community safe.”
Your phone will identify the caller as the “MA COVID TEAM.” Partners In Health Dr. John Welch explained at Gov. Charlie Baker’s press conference what happens next.
“The folks reaching out to you may be sharing with you for the first time that your test result is positive, that you in fact do have COVID,” Welch said. “After we establish how you’re doing and whether or not you have what you need to stay safely isolated. . . we’ll ask for you information about who you’ve been in contact with.”
Close contact is considered anyone you’ve been within 6 feet with for 15 minutes or more. Massachusetts residents should keep in mind now who those people might be, in case they get a call.
Anyone getting a call about potentially being exposed won’t be told who identified them as a contact because of privacy laws.
The contact tracer on the phone will “share information with the contacts about what it means to quarantine, whether or not you have what you need to safely quarantine, and also what you should do in order to get a test,” Welch said.
Welch said fewer than 50% of people are answering calls from contact tracers right now and that’s why they’re stepping up efforts to get the word out. Many people may not be answering the phone for fear of being scammed, he acknowledged.
“The only information we will ask for is name and a phone number,” he said. “No one who calls you should ever ask for social security number; they should never ask for any sort of health insurance information, anything like that.”
Massachusetts, in collaboration with Partners In Health, was the first in the nation to launch a statewide contact tracing program. Contact tracers here are making close to 10,000 calls per day.
“We need those people to pick up the phone,” Baker said. “We want them to know why they should stay home, and we want to make sure they also have what they need to isolate and quarantine effectively.”