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How To Know If A Call From A Contact Tracer Is Real

Question: How do I know that the call I received from a contact tracer stating that I may have been in contact with someone who tested positive to COVID is real and what is my next step?

Answer: Contact tracing has been a tool utilized by organizations and governments for many years. Situations like food poisoning, sexually transmitted diseases, and respiratory diseases (like COVID-19) all use contact tracing to help isolate and inform those individuals who may be in danger of getting sick and spreading the disease.

During this situation we have found it difficult to determine what is true and what is false. The Chautauqua and Cattaraugus County departments of health, chqgov.com and cattco.org/health as well as New York State Department of Health health.ny.gov are working hard to keep us informed and safe. Their websites are wonderful resources for accurate information.

The contact tracer works for the county and state departments of health, and the tracer’s job is to attempt to follow the contact path for those infected or potentially infected with COVID-19. This is done usually through phone calls. By using the phone we can talk with individuals and communicate concerns and protocols without exposing additional individuals to the disease.

Unfortunately we have become used to many spam calls received on our phones. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between scams and the real things. One informational item to remember is that contact tracers will never ask for your insurance information. There is no reason for them ask for this, as they are not trying to bill anyone. Contact tracers are trying to determine if you are at risk for catching or transmitting COVID-19, or other diseases.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) advise that “Legitimate contact tracers will never ask for your Medicare number or financial information. If someone calls and asks for personal information, hang up and report it to us at 1-800-MEDICARE.”

If you are contacted by a contract tracer, the tracer will identify herself as such and begin to work through the situation where you may have been exposed, how to determine if you are ill, how to get tested for COVID-19, how to isolate yourself if appropriate and offer other resources and information related to this situation. The contact tracer does not get paid by your insurance. Contact tracers work for the department of health in your county or state. Contract tracers are employees doing a difficult job to help control the spread of COVID-19.

Once informed that you may have been exposed to COVID-19 the Contact Tracer will try to determine where you have been and who you have been in contact with to see if further contact tracing needs to happen? They will help you to understand this disease better and how to stop the spread. They can advise you how to isolate yourself from others in your household or in your daily routine. This can be a scary phone call to get. But this phone call does not mean you have COVID-19. It means you may have been exposed. Not everyone who is exposed gets sick. Use this opportunity to learn from the contract tracer and how to best protect yourself and your family.

Senior Life Matters is a community based program sponsored by Lutheran Jamestown. For questions and concerns or to reach Janell Sluga, GCMC, call 720-9797 or e-mail SLM@lutheran-jamestown.org.

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