Spam calls are hindering efforts to contact trace and track Covid-19

Nine months into a pandemic that has killed 210,000 people in the United States, health officials are imploring residents to answer their phones. The caller may be a disease tracker trying to save you from the deadly coronavirus.



a man talking on a cell phone: Joseph Ortiz, a contact tracer in New York City, gathers information as he heads to a potential patient's home.


© John Minchillo/AP
Joseph Ortiz, a contact tracer in New York City, gathers information as he heads to a potential patient’s home.

Contract tracing involves identifying sick people, isolating them and then tracing everyone with whom they’ve been in contact and putting those people into quarantine.

But many people wary of spam calls and phishing scams are not answering calls from unknown numbers, undermining efforts by contact tracers to reach people exposed to Covid-19. And some states such as Louisiana are sending letters to those people who don’t answer — not the most effective way when time is of the essence.

Without a federal contact tracing program, health departments have set

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