Contact tracers are struggling to get people to answer their phone calls

Contact tracers are struggling to get people to answer their phone calls

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state now has 300 contact tracers to track down those exposed to COVID-19. But simply getting callbacks has turned out to be a difficult task.

“Getting them on the line is the main concern," said 1st Lt. Joshua Aquinde, of the Hawaii National Guard. He is one of 36 full time guard members serving as contact tracers at Hawaii Convention Center.

Aquinde said they leave a lot of voice messages but don’t often hear back.

“One, they don’t recognize the number, or two, they’re scared to divulge information of themselves or their friends,” he said.

Contact tracing is done to help people exposed get tested or find a quarantine location. The tracers can also provide notes to an employer of someone who needs to isolate.

But the efforts are often met with resistance.

“People are much more willing to share their own information,” said Dr. Emily Roberson, head of the contact tracing program at the Health Department.

However, people are hesitant to share information about their friends, family, and co-workers.

“They think that maybe we’re going to yell at them or something like that if they participated in a gathering. or weren’t wearing their masks,” she said, "But we’re not calling to scold them, we just want their information so we know who to follow up with and what was contributing to the outbreak.”

Roberson said the work is important to protect loved ones and slow the spread.

The program is preparing for the upcoming reopening of transpacific travel which could pose completely different challenges when it comes to tracing.

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