While we're not using our phones for navigating, ride-sharing, or event-planning as much, the pandemic lockdown has made the war on screen time a thing of the past. We now spend more time on our phones than ever before. Thanks TikTok and thank you 24/7 news alerts. So you'd think that with all this time at home, with fewer distractions and the increased time spent on the phone, we'd be that much easier to reach. New York State's contact tracers are finding that not to be the case.
In the state of New York, when you test positive for COVID-19, you might be asked to work with contact tracers to retrace your steps and determine who else might've been exposed to the virus. Contact tracing has proven key to flattening the curve in former hot zones like South Korea. Despite what fearmongers might say, non-invasive technology or invasions of privacy are not required for successful contact tracing.
What is required, however, is for you to pick up the damn phone. As Gothamist reported, those who have tested positive have been picking up the phone and providing tracers with accurate information for secondary contacts. It's the secondary contacts, those who may very well have been exposed, who are not picking up the phone.
The New York Health Department has had to take out ads, encouraging people to answer the phone when they receive incoming phone calls from "NYS Contact Tracing" or from 518-387-9993.
In the age of text messages, DM's, and scheduled Zoom calls, it's almost understandable that an unscheduled phone call from someone you don't know is an unwelcome discomfort. Especially now that spam calls have basically made any incoming call from outside your contact list wholly untrustworthy. But if there's ever a reason to risk having a conversation with a robot, it's to help contact tracers do their jobs.