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story.lead_photo.caption Contact tracer Kandice Childress, right, works at Harris County Public Health contact tracing facility, Thursday, June 25, 2020, in Houston. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that the state is facing a "massive outbreak" in the coronavirus pandemic and that some new local restrictions may be needed to protect hospital space for new patients. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

When a patient tests positive for COVID-19, case investigators and contact tracers work backwards to trace where the person has been and who has potentially been exposed.

This work is called contact tracing, and it’s a critical step toward containing the spread of the virus. It means that a contact tracer with the Arkansas Department of Health or one of our partners might call you seeking information that will help keep you and the people around you safe.

If you have tested positive, a case investigator will call and ask about your symptoms as well as where you have been and when. The case investigator will instruct you on how to self-isolate and enroll you in an automated system called SARA Alert for reporting symptoms by text or email. A contact tracer will follow up with you about your close contacts.

If you are a close contact, a contact tracer will call and walk you through a self-quarantine process and enroll you in SARA Alert. Calls from contact tracers will generally happen before 8 p.m. The tracer will be able to provide information you can verify, such as where you have recently been.

The case investigator and contact tracer will never ask for your Social Security number, bank account number, or credit card. If the caller ever discusses money, that’s a sign that it is not a legitimate Department of Health investigator. If you want to verify that you have been contacted by a Health Department case investigator or contact tracer, you may call (800) 803-7847.

Many of our tracers will call from the number (877) ARCOV19 or (877) 272-6819, but a contact investigator may also reach out from a different phone number. It’s possible you won’t recognize the number, but it’s important to answer or return the call if it goes to voicemail.

If you haven’t spoken to a tracer on the phone to enroll in the automated SARA Alert program for reporting symptoms, beware of text messages asking you to click on a link. It could be a scammer. A tracer will not send you any links to click before speaking with you on the phone.

If you believe you have been contacted by a scammer posing as an official, you can report these calls to the Attorney General’s office online at ArkansasAG.gov, by emailing [email protected] or by calling (800) 482-8982. Please note the time of the call and the number it came from when you report it.

The Department of Health is also adding contact tracers to our team through a partnership with General Dynamics Information Technology. More information, including how to apply, is available at gdit.com/ARContactTracerJobs/.

The Department of Health is also hiring nurses to help with case investigation, COVID-19 clinics and more. For more information or to apply, visit healthy.arkansas.gov/public-health-careers.

Additional information about contact tracing in Arkansas is available here: healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/covid-19-contact-tracing.

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