Florida contact tracing may soon include text messages

Florida contact tracers may begin texting people who test positive for coronavirus.

As the number of COVID-19 cases increases statewide, so does the work load for contact tracers. Those are the people tasked with reaching out to COVID positive patients and learning more about where they’ve been and who they’ve been around.

“Tracing is calling, hoping that the person answers the phone, hoping that the person wants to talk to you and then going through about 30 to 40 minutes of questioning. Then you have to call every contact that person had,” explained Orange County Health Officer Dr. Raul Pino.

Pino says the high number of positives and late test results is making contact tracing ineffective. So, they’re considering reaching out in a new way.

“What we are doing, we’re trying to engage in texting. We think that most critical part is for people to know their results right away…or right when we receive it,” Pino said.

He says the text would tell people about their test result, what actions they have to take and who they should notify – giving health employees a head start on the tracing process.

Dr. Pino says his office is also looking to streamline the calling process by focusing on certain places.

“We are very insisting on assisted living facilities, health care facilities, homeless shelter, first responders and health care workers. Those are very critical because they will keep society going,” he said.

Dr. Pino says the department of health in Orange County will be adding about 100 additional employees to focus on COVID-19

He didn’t have an exact date but says the texting should begin soon.