The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) urges people to answer the phone when a contact tracer calls to inform them they may have been exposed to COVID-19.


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, according to the health department.


“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,” according to a news release. “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 a person is a close contact, a contact tracer will call and walk them through a self-quarantine process and enroll them in SARA Alert. Calls from contact tracers will generally happen before 8 p.m. The tracer will be able to provide information the person can verify, such as where they have recently been.


The case investigator and contact tracer will never ask for someone’s 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. To verify that the caller is a health department case investigator or contact tracer, call 800-803-7847.


Many of the 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,” according to the release.


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


The Department of Health is also adding contact tracers to the team through a partnership with General Dynamics Information Technology. Details: https://www.gdit.com/ARContactTracerJobs/.


The Department of Health is also hiring nurses to help with case investigation, COVID-19 clinics and more. Details: https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/public-health-careers.


For further details about contact tracing in Arkansas, visit https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/covid-19-contact-tracing.