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Contact tracers facing unique challenges during pandemic

With the state adding new coronavirus cases every day, health officials are stressing the importance of being honest and answering questions from contact tracers.

SUFFOLK, Va. — Health officials in Hampton Roads are urging people to cooperate with contact tracers. They said people are not answering important questions that could slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“It is an issue that comes up daily,” explained Western Tidewater Health District epidemiologist Amal Patel. “There are some cases that people will either refuse an interview or give very vague answers or refuse to give whoever their close contacts are.”

Without the full story, experts say it’s hard to control the spread of COVID-19. Patel said if people won’t provide that crucial information, contact tracers try to explain how they should get in touch with those they were around.

He explained, “We hit these speed bumps, and we just take it in strides and try to figure out better ways to prevent this from happening whether it’s education or what we say to the cases to get a better response.”

For people who don’t feel comfortable giving out personal information over the phone because they are worried about it being a scam, Patel said the Caller ID should say "VDH COVID-19."

“She just addressed herself, said who she is with, and just asked me a few basic questions,” said Devin Rivera.

Rivera said he caught COVID back in March. He said the call with a contact tracer only took about five minutes.

Rivera said, “Just be helpful. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be somebody that can answer questions to potentially help save other people. That is beneficial in the end.”

It’s a short call. that could help slow the spread of this virus.