Contact tracing guidance, increased tracers and adjustments to publishing of COVID-19 Data

Published: 06/02/2020, 9:27 AM
Edited: 03/11/2021, 10:22 AM
(OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.) In light of increased contact tracing efforts in the state, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) released a Contact Tracing Overview document to inform the public on what to expect when contacted by a health department contact tracer. Contact tracing is a method aimed at reducing the spread of an infectious disease like COVID-19 and involves public health department employees contacting people who have tested positive for the disease. Contact tracers ask questions to find out who may have been in contact with the COVID-19 patient in order to provide symptom checking, testing information and quarantine guidance when needed. An overview of contact tracing can be found here: “Testing and contact tracing are key elements in the ongoing fight to limit the spread of COVID-19,” Interim Health Commissioner Lance Frye said. “Through public-private partnerships that include trained professionals from the Oklahoma National Guard, the University of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State University, we are pleased to have quickly grown our state’s contact tracing team to nearly 600 individuals.” Trained contact tracers working on behalf of state and county health departments begin most investigations with a phone call and are required to follow all scripts, policies and procedures provided by the OSDH. Other forms of communication, including text messages, email, social media, and in-person contact are used if the initial calls are not successful. The OSDH urges people to be aware that the State's contact tracers will never request personal information, such as a social security number, bank account, or credit card number, nor will they send emails or texts requesting a click on a link or an attachment. People who think they may have received a fraudulent text or other communication from someone posing as public health official should immediately contact the Oklahoma State Department of Health at (405) 271-5600. OSDH also announced that its COVID-19 data tracker, located at, will continue reporting active and recovered COVID-19 cases by county only, as permitted by State law, and the agency will no longer be able to publish COVID-19 data by city, zip code, or by long-term care and nursing home facility due to the State’s Catastrophic Emergency Declaration expiring on May 31, 2020. OSDH and the office of Governor Kevin Stitt are actively exploring additional legal opinions and solutions to ensure the public, the medical community, and elected leaders can access relevant COVID-19 data that will allow for quick and effective decision-making while Oklahoma awaits a treatment or vaccine to mute the novel virus. “OSDH will continue to publish daily the most recent active and recovered COVID-19 cases by county,” said OSDH Communications Director Kristin Davis. “The State’s infrastructure is in a much stronger position for continuing to address the presence of the novel coronavirus, and the core purpose of the emergency declaration is no longer needed. At the same time, Governor Kevin Stitt and Commissioner Lance Frye continue their shared commitment to transparency and availability of critical COVID-19 data. They have tasked the State’s legal experts to explore other options for providing critical health data that would support all stakeholders’ decision making during the presence of COVID-19, while also safeguarding Oklahomans’ protected health information.” The Legislature first granted the Governor’s request for a Catastrophic Emergency Health declaration on April 7, and the declaration was later extended until the end of May. Under the declaration, the Governor was able to redirect state agency resources and state employee efforts to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and was able to activate the Oklahoma National Guard. During this period, the Governor also waived statutory requirements to allow for more granular reporting of COVID-19 data to support rapid decision making at local levels on the response to COVID-19. Since the Catastrophic Emergency Declaration went into effect, the number of Oklahomans in the hospital for COVID-19 has declined by roughly 65%, the weekly rate of deaths related to COVID-19 has declined by 56%, and the percentage of positive cases has declined to an all-time low of 3.7%. While some data adjustments will be made, OSDH will continue to issue the daily media advisory with cumulative statewide COVID-19 data as well as publish the following reports: The COVID-19 Dashboard The Governor’s daily Executive Order Report The weekly The Weekly Epidemiology Report


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