How contact tracing works in San Antonio

Here's what happens after a Bexar County resident tests positive for COVID-19

Roughly 200 contact tracers are stationed at the Alamodome reaching out to residents infected or exposed to COVID-19. (City of San Antonio, KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – Stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus is not just about finding residents infected with COVID-19, it’s also about finding out who else could have been exposed to the virus.

While San Antonio residents continue to battle the spread of COVID-19, health experts say contact tracing could be key in flattening the curve.

“(People infected with COVID-19) are the most important source of information to help us stop the spread,” said Jenny Hixon, one of roughly 200 people who are stationed in the Alamodome to conduct contact investigations. “We really need people to pick up that phone and help us with that process.”

Following a positive COVID-19 test result, residents should expect a call from Metro Health employees or contract workers from a phone number beginning with 210-207. The call can last anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes.

RELATED: If you receive a call from a ’210-207′ number, answer it! Metro Health may be calling you for contact tracing

The information helps contact tracers identify and reach out to other people who have been exposed to COVID-19. Those people are only notified of their exposure and information about the infected individual is kept confidential, officials said.

Contact tracers ask infected individuals and anyone exposed to the virus to download a health app called emocha. Users are asked to “check in” daily to the app, which tracks and monitors symptoms of COVID-19.

The City of San Antonio provides emocha the following details of each resident infected or exposed to the virus:

1. First Name

2. Last Name

3. Phone Number

4. Monitoring Period Start Date

5. Monitoring Period End Date

6. sourced / unique identifier.

The emocha script is as follows:

VOICEMAIL: "Hello, this message is for <patient name>. My name is <first name> calling on behalf of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, the local health department for Bexar (bear) County. I am calling regarding information about COVID-19. Please call us back at (830) 206-8400. In the meantime, you'll receive a link to sign up for a mobile app to keep track of any COVID-19-related symptoms you are experiencing. Please do download the app and enroll in emocha. Thank you."

SCRIPT (on call with resident): “We’ve made it easy to monitor your symptoms by offering emocha: a mobile app available on your smartphone or tablet where you submit daily symptom and temperature check ins. Setting up the app is easy and daily check-ins take 30 seconds. I have sent you a link to sign up via text, please do so at your own convenience. If you are having trouble logging into the app please contact us at 830-206-8400”

For more information on the emocha app, click here. Residents with questions on the process can call the city’s COVID-19 hotline at 210-207-5779.

What is contact tracing, and how does it work with COVID-19?

About the Author:

Fares Sabawi has been a journalist in San Antonio for four years. He has covered several topics, but specializes in crime, courts, open records and data visualization.