INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana is outsourcing contact tracing duties for the entire state to 500 call center workers under a new $43 million contract.
The news came at Gov. Eric Holcomb's briefing Wednesday.
“This is the way we can stop the spread,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box.
Contact tracing is a targeted way of combating infectious disease.
Holcomb also is set to announce changes Friday to the stay-at-home order. He said while cases and deaths continue to rise other data show improvement in capacity for hospital systems.
On Wednesday an additional 605 new cases and 63 new deaths were announced. Seven more Allen County residents have died from COVID-19 and 19 tested positive, bringing the total to 533 cases and 48 deaths locally.
Right now, local health departments handle the task of contact tracing – which involves interviewing anyone who is confirmed positive for COVID-19 and identifying people they were in contact with recently who might have been exposed to the virus. Those people would then self-isolate for 14 days.
Box said these interviews can take one to two hours each and then there are follow-up calls to close contacts, such as family members of coworkers.
The stay-at-home order has simplified contact tracing a bit. But when that is lifted it will become more important as people re-engage in the community.
Box said the state needed to move fast on contact tracing and approached seven companies it has a good working relationship with. Those companies submitted proposals and Maximus was chosen. The typical procurement process of seeking vendors would have taken more than 45 days.
“We didn't have 45 days to wait,” Holcomb said.
The system will involve sending a text or email to all Hoosiers who test positive. They then contact the call center to go over their private health care information. Box said no technology tracking will be done through phones or other avenues.
The initial startup is 500 workers but Box said they can add more if needed. A person doesn't need a college degree to be hired but they must complete an online training course.
Those in quarantine will get a daily text asking about symptoms, and local health officials will have access to all the records.
Box said by centralizing contact tracing local employees can focus on other important public health duties. But the departments could be used as backups when a person can't be notified.
The new system will begin May 11.
If a person has no symptoms after a 14-day quarantine they are free to go back to work. If they exhibit symptoms of the novel coronavirus they will immediately be tested.