The Delaware Division of Public Health Contact Tracing Team launched a an early SMS/text messaging initiative to individuals who test positive for Covid-19.
It involves sending a text message to Covid-positive individuals and providing initial isolation guidance and recommendations through a secure web platform before they receive a call from the Contact Tracing Team.
It serves as an early notification system, getting people to isolate sooner, instead of having to wait for a call from a member of the Contact Tracing Team for instructions. A pilot, testing the service on a small number of individuals, was launched on March 1.
The technology comes during a downturn in Covid-19 cases. During the winter peak of the pandemic, the volume of cases made contact tracing more difficult.
DPH uses a unique identification number that will appear as the sender of the text on the receiver’s mobile device. Texts coming from the number 37821 are legitimate SMS messages from the state agency.
The initial message lets the individual know that DPH has critical information for them and asks them to reply with their date of birth. If the information matches DPH’s records, the person will receive a return message that they can now access messages from the Contact Tracing Team.
If the date of birth does not match DPH’s records, the person will be asked to call the Contact Tracing Team with a reference number provided in the return text. The initial message also provides a link to the Contact Tracing page on the coronavirus website to help individuals verify that the initiative is legitimate. DPH will not ask for additional personal information through a text message.
Once the person’s identity is confirmed, they will be able to access isolation guidance on an internal DPH webpage via a separate link.
“We wanted to improve speed and efficiency with contacting positive cases,” said Director of the DPH Contact Tracing Team Tracey Johnson. “Our team has worked on the project for months to develop a delivery service that is both easy to use and secure. Mail or email may be too slow in alerting a person of their status concerning the virus. With the national increase in spam calls and a tendency for people to ignore unfamiliar phone numbers, we felt it was important to develop a safe, least intrusive way to get in touch with them. Early notification and guidance for COVID-positive persons can lead to earlier isolation, and a reduced chance of spreading the virus.”
Below is a sample of messages that individuals should expect to see:
- This is an urgent message from the Delaware Division of Public Health. We have critical information to share with you from the COVID-19 Contact Tracing Team. To receive information specific to you, reply with your date of birth.
- You are now able to receive Delaware Contact Tracing messages and information about your situation. Please follow this link for additional guidance ___.
- has been identified as someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and should isolate for at least 5 days after their symptoms first appeared or the day they were tested (if they have no symptoms) and wear a well-fitting mask for an additional 5 days when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter.
- may end their isolation, and the employer may allow them to return to work or may attend school only when ALL the following are true:
- At least 5 days have passed since symptoms first appeared or the day they were tested (if they have no symptoms); AND
- At least 24 hours have passed since recovery. This includes BOTH
- Resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications; AND
- Improvement in COVID-19 symptoms (cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell); AND
- will wear a well-fitting mask for 5 additional days when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter
If you have the Covid Alert DE App on your phone, please update your positive status so other contacts can be notified. If you do not have the Covid Alert DE APP, one can obtained at https://coronavirus.delaware.gov/covidalert.