DHEC asks South Carolinians to respond to legitimate COVID-19 contract tracers

South Carolina News

FILE – In this Wednesday, March 11, 2020 file photo, a technician prepares COVID-19 coronavirus patient samples for testing at a laboratory in New York’s Long Island. The Trump administration’s plan to provide every nursing home with a fast COVID-19 testing machine comes with an asterisk: the government won’t supply enough test kits to check staff and residents beyond an initial couple of rounds. A program that sounded like a game changer when it was announced last month at the White House is now prompting concerns that it could turn into another unfulfilled promise for nursing homes, whose residents and staff account for as many as 4 in 10 coronavirus deaths. Administration officials respond that nursing homes can pay for ongoing testing from a $5-billion federal allocation available to them. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSAV) – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is encouraging all South Carolinians to respond to legitimate contact tracing calls and emails from public health officials, while remaining vigilant against scams. 

“Our contact tracing team plays a critical role in helping to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” said Mike Elieff, DHEC Pubic Health Preparedness director. “We encourage all South Carolinians to do their part by answering our call.” 

DHEC says it has been conducting contact tracing for COVID-19 cases since the first reports in the state.

“Notifying people about a possible exposure is critical to stopping the spread of the COVID-19 because the virus can be transmitted without causing symptoms,” DHEC said.

Contact tracing includes two components: case investigations and contact monitoring.

Currently, DHEC has more than 700 individuals trained to perform case investigations across the state, supplemented by 230 active contact monitors. DHEC says a total of 600 contact monitors have been trained to date and will be deployed as needed.

If you test positive for COVID-19, a contact tracer from DHEC will call you. They will do the following:

  • Connect you to medical care and help you find resources and support if needed.
  • Ask about places you have been and the people you have spent time with recently.
  • Make sure the information you provide is kept confidential and not shared with others. They will not ask about your immigration status nor share your information with immigration officials.
  • Call the people you recently were in close contact with and let them know they have been exposed to COVID-19. A “close contact” is someone you have been within 6 feet of for at least 15 minutes.
  • Not share your name and your personal information with any of your contacts.
  • Inform your contacts about what they need to do during the next couple of weeks to take care of themselves and others.

DHEC says a contact tracer will never ask for you Social Security number, money, bank account, or credit card number, or immigration status.

Anyone concerned about whether a caller is a real DHEC official, you can verify their identity by:

  • Asking them to send you an email. The email should end with @dhec.sc.gov.
  • Calling the DHEC regional epidemiology office to confirm the caller’s name and credentials.

DHEC says contact tracing participation is voluntary and confidential. A legitimate contact tracer will never threaten consequences for not participating or answering questions.

Members of the public can report suspected fraud schemes and price gouging related to the coronavirus to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) via their hotline (1-866-720-5721) or e-mail address (disaster@leo.gov). For more information about South Carolina’s COVID Strike Team, click here

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