Contact tracing for COVID-19 exposure in Oklahoma now includes a text messaging option.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health announced Friday its automated text messaging system for contact tracing is up and running.
Jared Taylor, a consultant who develops contact tracing protocols for the state health department said the goal is to improve communication and free up staff.
"Is going to play an integral role moving forward in trying to speed up the system, reduce the burden on the health departments and add convenience for the citizens of Oklahoma," said Taylor.
Taylor said from now on, the first communication from contact tracers will likely be through the new texting system. Those contacted will be asked to reply with their preference to keep getting texts or if they prefer phone calls. Those who do not reply to the texts will receive calls, according to Taylor.
Taylor said the number of people contacted per confirmed COVID-19 case varies from a couple to dozens, but everyone needs to have important information to slow the spread.
Recovered COVID-19 patients, like Cathleen Morales of Cherokee County, said she thinks it's great to have different options for communication with contact tracers.
"If some people are not able to answer the phone because of their job or whatever is going on in their life, maybe a text message is a better option,” said Morales. “I think that's a good plan."
But some, like Jennifer and Christopher Jones of Tulsa, whose daughters tested positive for COVID-19 almost two weeks ago, said they have not heard from the local or state health department.
"I'm wondering if communication isn't where it needs to be because I know the hospitals are very busy,” said Jennifer Jones. “That one slip-up could cause more people to catch the virus."
Taylor said health departments in Oklahoma try to reach everyone who may have come in contact with an infected person, but some cases could take weeks, and a few could slip through the cracks.
“When the test is done and how rapidly that test is communicated to the patient versus it getting into the state system to generate the contact tracing, and so some of this is beyond our control and outside the hands of the health department,” said Taylor.
Taylor advised if it's been at least 5 days since your COVID-19 test has come back positive and you have not heard from a contact tracer, call your local health department to let staff know.
Information on COVID-19 in Oklahoma and the statewide data can be found here.
News On 6’s section dedicated to news related to COVID-19 can be found here.