PROVIDENCE, RI — Rhode Island has debuted another new tool in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday, the director of the Rhode Island Department of Health announced that the state now has a text-based contact tracing system, aimed at making the process faster and more efficient.
The system builds on the already existing portal.ro.gov/results site, where Rhode Islanders can check the results of their COVID-19 test. Starting now, anyone who tests positive will be prompted to fill out an online form, providing names and contact information for their close contacts. The system will then automatically text the list of people, informing them that they must self-quarantine. It also allows Rhode Islanders to request help while they are in isolation or quarantine, such as food, housing or cash assistance.
The new system is not meant to fully replace human contact tracers, who will still be hard at work at the Department of Health to work on more difficult cases and help those who need extra assistance with their case. Instead, it is meant to supplement this work, streamlining the process and allowing the state to more quickly identify and quarantine potential COVID-19 carriers. In just the first few weeks of operation, the new system is estimated to have saved contact tracers approximately 1,200 hours of work.
'[The phone call-based system] is not always as quick as we'd like it to be," Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott explained. "As we said before, every minute counts with this virus."