Coronavirus Coverage from KARK

Misinformation about COVID-19 giving contact tracers hard time amid pandemic


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Misinformation is not only impacting vaccine distribution but contact tracing. It’s causing a strain on those in charge of tracking those who tested positive for COVID-19.

For almost a year and a half, contact tracers have spent their days making calls to track down sick Arkansans and those who they may have come in contact with.

“We get an array of reactions,” AFMC Contact Tracer Mandi Heard said.

Heard is one of 176 people hired to dial those numbers.

“You have those who don’t want to have their information in the system for whatever reason and then you have those who are totally convinced that we’re scammers,” Heard said.

It’s her job to get that information, from where they’ve been to who they’ve seen.

“We’re just doing this to try and help you and keep your family, your coworkers and your community safe,” Heard said.

Robyn Ledbetter is in charge of training the contact tracers.

“I think there is automatically a level of distrust especially when someone sees that there’s an 800 number that pops up. It’s important that our contact tracers are ready, they are confident and that they know what they’re doing,” Ledbetter said.

She said delivery makes all the difference.

“Getting people to talk to you, how to get people to trust you, to know your information before you make the call,” Ledbetter said.

Even still, there can be those calls that just don’t end well.

“We’ve had some really hostile people too. We’ve had some agents that can get very emotional and really have to take a breather after very disgruntled people don’t want to give the information that’s needed,” Ledbetter said.

She said it’s important for Arkansans to understand, they’re just doing their job.

“And they will continue to call even if you decline or hang up the phone or don’t answer you’re going to continue to be called,” Ledbetter said.

They ask if you have tested positive for COVID-19 to be on the lookout for the calls as well as warn anyone you’ve been in contact with. The number they’ll be calling from is 833-283-2019 so you know to answer if you see it pop up.

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