COVID-19 contact tracing efforts in Franklin County to increase

Coronavirus Local Impact

GREENFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – COVID-19 contact tracing efforts are being increased in four Franklin County communities.

According to a news release sent to 22News from Greenfield Mayor’s Office, a grant of $250,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health will provide an increase of nursing and epidemiological support for COVID-19 contact tracing and case investigation in Greenfield, Montague, Deerfield, and Sunderland.

The grant will be administered over two years, $125,000 per year to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and help public health in neighboring communities of Greenfield.

As of Friday, there are 63 current cases of COVID-19 in Greenfield. 67% of Greenfield residents are fully vaccinated.

According to Montague Town Administrator, Steve Ellis, “We are excited that DPH was responsive to our collaborative request for additional capacity. It will enable more rigorous and complete contact tracing, and provide additional expertise as we work to identify and monitor the most relevant indicators of COVID-19’s prevalence and risk and respond to that evolving risk. “

“We are thrilled to have extra capacity for the coming holiday and winter season.  Quick and effective contact tracing is key to keeping community transmission in check and all of our schools and businesses open”, added Carolyn Ness, Deerfield Selectboard/Board of Health, chair.  

Jennifer Hoffman, MPH, the Health Director for the City of Greenfield, said “I am very proud of the grant award and I feel this is finally a way for all of us to communicate and share information without limitations and delays that might have been present earlier on in the pandemic. Although we have been collaborating with one another throughout the pandemic, now, we will be stronger and united in educating our communities as well as transmitting information more quickly to one another”.     

How community tracing works

First, if you test positive, the CTC or your local health department will connect you with the support and resources you may need through isolation. Then with your collaboration, we will identify and reach out via phone and text to anyone you’ve been in close contact with to encourage them to get tested and self-quarantine. It is important to note that we will not release your name to anyone. Your information is strictly confidential and will be treated as the private medical record it is.

How can I verify MA COVID Team or my local health department is calling?

Calls from the MA COVID Team will use the prefix 833 and 857 and your phone will say the call is from “MA COVID Team.” Calls will be made daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Your local health department will use their local phone numbers to contact you.

What happens during the call?

When we call, a MA COVID team member or representative from your local health department will ask you for a list of all of the people you were within six feet of during the two days before you had symptoms. If you don’t have symptoms, we’ll ask about your activity during the two days before your diagnosis. We will also ask for the phone numbers of anyone you tell us about, so they can be called and cared for.

We will encourage you to let your contacts know about your illness, but we will not be sharing your information with them. We’ll call your contacts and let them know they have been exposed so they can get tested, but not tell them your name.

If you are staying at home during the isolation period, the MA COVID team member or local health department representative will also discuss any needs you may have and may connect you with a care resource coordinator who will help you get the support you need. Throughout your illness, a MA COVID team member or your local health department will check in to monitor your symptoms and needs.

Why community tracing matters

Although social distancing has been proven effective in slowing the spread of the virus, there is more that we can do to take care of each other. With contact tracing in place, we can track the spread and reduce additional exposure to others by encouraging testing, supporting quarantine and social distancing. Many people who have COVID-19 don’t show any symptoms and don’t realize that they may be spreading the virus. So, if you get a call keep your family and friends safe by answering the call. We are all in this together and by sharing information and listening to the direction of the Community Tracing Collaborative and your local health department, we can spread the word to stop the virus.

About your privacy

The confidentiality of your private information is protected by Massachusetts law. It will only be used to help the Commonwealth respond to and prevent cases of an infectious disease. We will not release your name to anyone with whom you’ve been in contact.

Community Tracing Collaborative SMS policy

The Community Tracing Collaborative’s use of SMS in all forms, including with Short Codes

Acting on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Public Health (“DPH”), the Community Tracing Collaborative (“CTC”) uses Short Message Service (“SMS”) text messaging via cellphone for multiple purposes related to the dissemination of public health information about COVID-19, including reaching out to individuals recently diagnosed with the virus, their contacts, and individuals traveling to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from out of state who have filled out the Commonwealth’s Travel Form. In some instances the CTC will use “short codes” for SMS, short five to six digit codes that may appear on the cellphones of recipients of the CTC’s COVID-19 SMS messages instead of the longer 9 to 10 digit phone numbers.

Message and data rates may apply. Message frequency varies. For help, reply HELP. To opt out, reply STOP. Carriers are not liable for delayed or undelivered messages.

Using SMS, the CTC provides COVID-19 positive individuals, their contacts, and travelers to the Commonwealth with advice and support regarding infection, isolation and quarantine, how to protect their own health and that of others, and assistance in meeting basic needs for food, shelter and medical assistance while quarantined.  

The CTC also collects personal information from such individuals when they in turn use SMS to provide information to the CTC about, among other things, their COVID-19 symptoms, test status, health, isolation and quarantine plans, and basic needs.

All personal information collected by the CTC is protected in accordance with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Fair Information Practices Act, MGL ch. 66A, using an array of administrative, technical and physical security measures. Information collected by DPH through the CTC via SMS may be shared as provided for by state and federal law, including with one or more local Boards of Health for purposes of facilitating contact tracing and the support of COVID-positive individuals and their contacts and travelers.    

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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