211 phone service sees record-breaking numbers during coronavirus crisis

Hotline receives more than 27,000 phone calls since March 12

211 phone service sees record-breaking numbers during coronavirus crisis
Questions regarding coronavirus can be answered by calling the statewide 211 network. (Source: WAFB)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Louisiana leaders said that since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, the 211 network has answered a record-breaking number of calls.

The phone answering bank works with the Louisiana Department of Health and United Way.

“We were activated on March 12. By 7 p.m. March 29, our call centers had answered 27,391 phone calls,” said Sarah Berthelot, Louisiana Association of United Way President and CEO who serves as Louisiana 211 director of disaster response during statewide activations. “Our 211 call specialists are in a unique position to help people during these unprecedented times because we help people in vulnerable positions across the state every day.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards said citizens should call 211 with questions.

Berthelot said the 211 call specialists have done an outstanding job connecting callers seeking answers with resources and information available.

A frequently asked questions list that call specialists helped create to answer questions is available to the public here.

Dr. Alex Billioux, assistant secretary for the Office of Public Health, said the Louisiana 211 statewide network has proven to be a vital source of information for people as they try to reduce their chance of getting sick from the new coronavirus.

“People are worried about what this new virus means to the health of themselves, their family and their community. This worry has translated into people seeking answers to very specific questions, and 211 has been a key way that individuals can get their questions answered,” Billioux said.

The Louisiana 211 statewide network connects callers with more than 9,600 resources to help with issues across the board 365 days a year.

Berthelot said Louisiana 211 call specialists are answering calls about a wide range of topics related to COVID-19 — from prevention tips, symptoms, transmission, workforce-related questions, social distancing and about Gov. Edwards’ stay-at-home order.

“The COVID-19 situation has prompted the Louisiana 211 statewide network to use our capacity for caring and apply our skills, partnerships and technology to the unique need this crisis presents,” Berthelot said.

She explained that when callers ask new questions, Louisiana 211 works with LDH to find the most accurate answers and then the answers become a part of the frequently asked questions section of the website and available to the public.

“We have a strong commitment to listening to the public and finding and delivering answers by working lock and step with the LDH,” Berthelot said.

The LDH is asking anyone looking for information about the COVID-19 crisis to call 211 or text the keyword LACOVID to 898-211 for the most current information, as it becomes available.

During peak call times, callers may have a longer wait time than is typical.

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