Maricopa County announces enhanced contact tracing strategy
PHOENIX — The Maricopa County Department of Health Administration announced Wednesday its plan to rapidly increase coronavirus contact tracing in metro Phoenix.
During an online webinar, public health officials detailed how the county intends to ramp up contact tracing efforts originally outlined on April 23.
“It is our goal to ensure that by July 1, public health has the capacity to contact 400 to 500 cases a day,” said Maricopa County Public Health Executive Director Marcy Flanagan.
“We will be doing this seven days a week and all close contacts will be directly contacted.”
Flanagan added that the county’s plan allows for increased staff as needed, including the hiring of investigators.
“These are individuals that will talk directly to a positive case, and they require a higher level of training than contact tracers,” Flanagan said.
Maricopa County has also taken steps to speed up its hiring process.
In what would normally take 45 days, Flanagan says the county has offered 33 new positions within ten days.
She added that 14 investigators have begun training this week and will be followed with additional contact tracers who will be responsible for reaching out to those who have had contact with infectious, positive case individuals.
New county hires will undergo training emphasizing enhanced patient confidentiality, investigation skills, strategies to identify and communicate with contacts and potential contacts, recognizing at-risk professions and how to properly answer questions posed by contacts.
After initial training, new staff can begin working on case investigations within three days but will require 3 to 4 weeks of total training before working independently, according to Flanagan.
Maricopa Disease Control Medical Director Rebecca Sunenshine also said during the webinar that contact tracing investigations will begin with a text message as soon as next week.
“Once we receive a positive test, we will send a text message immediately to the case in both English and Spanish,” Sunenshine said.
The text will include a link to a secure survey that will document initial symptoms and provide guidance until the individual is contacted by a public health employee.
“It is important that people know that we will not be asking for personal health or identifying information or financial information through this survey,” Sunenshine added.
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