HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nearly 1 in 5 coronavirus cases in Hawaii are sent to contact tracers without any contact information or with incorrect or disconnected numbers, state figures show.
Emily Roberson, who oversees contact tracing efforts at the Health Department, said missing information can be a struggle to track down. Contact tracers try to go back to the healthcare provider to secure a number, and that can lead to long delays in reaching people.
Wrong or disconnected numbers are also a headache.
Roberson said that of about 1,600 coronavirus cases in the islands over a two-week period in September, just over 40% couldn’t be reached. In addition to no numbers or disconnected or wrong ones, contact tracers also encounter a large chunk of people who don’t return their calls.
Just a handful, meanwhile, outright refuse to help.
Contact tracers are key to the state’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 because they reach out to those who may have been exposed to the virus to urge them to isolate, get tested and take other steps to protect themselves and those around them.
The state’s contact tracing efforts were overwhelmed during a surge in cases in July and August, leading to staff departures and a flurry of new hires. Roughly 32 National Guard members have also been trained to serve as contact tracers, but their work is only funded through December.
As of this week, the state had 328 active contact tracers ― 260 of whom are on Oahu.
Roberson urged those reached by a contact tracer to complete an intake interview and stressed that contact tracers will try multiple times to connect with someone before they give up.
Those who can’t be reached by phone are also sent emails and even messages by post.