SUNY Upstate COVID-19 hotline seeing spike in calls as cases rise


SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The SUNY Upstate COVID-19 hotline is back at a call volume on par with what it saw early in the pandemic.

The hotline has fielded more than 26,000 calls since it launched in March when it operated seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

After a drop to only five days a week in the summer as call volume waned, the hotline is now open six days a week.

“The last couple of weeks we’ve noticed the anxiety level has risen,” SUNY Upstate COVID Hotline Co-Director Joey Angelina.

She says it’s because of everything from college students going back home for the first time in months to rising local and national numbers.

The line has received almost as many calls during the first two weeks of November as it received during the entire month of October.

In October, 2,244 people called the line while nearly the same number, 2,041 people, called the line from Nov. 1 to Nov. 15.

Angelina tells NewsChannel 9, “They need direction of somebody that can help them because they’re scared, they’re anxious, they don’t know what to do, that’s us, you’re going to get a person on the phone you’re not going to get stuck in a phone tree.”

Of the 4,285 calls received from Oct. 1 to Nov. 15, 84% originated in Onondaga County. Callers from 36 other counties in New York state utilized the triage line.

The call takers come from across the SUNY Upstate organization.

“It has been a great outlet for people that are unable to be at the bedside right now or aren’t usually at the bedside in their job to be able to help out,” Angelina says.

Upstate’s triage line is staffed with health care professionals who can answer questions about symptoms or offer guidance on the next steps for testing, quarantine, or where to seek care.

The hotline will only be phoning people with test results on Thanksgiving morning, not taking calls.

Normal operations resume Friday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, the hotline will only contact people with results from COVID tests.

The triage line is free and open to the public and can be reached at 315-464-3979. The normal schedule is Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Use is also soaring for Upstate’s Coronavirus Virtual Assistant, an online tool that can assess one’s exposure risk to COVID-19 and plan next steps, either for quarantine or testing.

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