Calls from Florida coronavirus contact tracers showing up as potential spam

Contractor says issue is fixed

The calls from a company hired by the state of Florida to provide contact tracing, showed up as potential spam.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The calls from a company hired by the state of Florida to provide contact tracing showed up as potential spam.

Marytza Sanz says she had COVID-19 and no one from the state ever reached out to inquire about her close contacts.

“I have never been contacted. Nobody ever called me. I didn’t even know that existed,” Sanz said.

She also says she doesn’t answer calls that show up on her phone as potential spam.

“I don’t want to even bother,” she said.

However, those calls could have been coming from state contact tracers.

Florida State Sen. Lori Berman (Boynton Beach- D) said some of her constituents answered the call but worried others would not.

“We heard it from various people who said that they got calls on their phone and it came through as spam,” Berman said. “So we started hearing that people were not responding at all to their phone calls.”

News 6 traced the origin of the calls to a company called Maximus.

In May, the Florida Department of Health entered a $6.2 million contract with Maximus for COVID-19 contact tracing, according to a state database.

In August, the state added two more contracts -- one for $49.9 million and another for $13.8 million.

Lisa Miles, a company spokesperson, said in a statement that the problem has been corrected.

“Maximus worked with each of the telephone providers to have the number whitelisted,” according to the statement.

“When a citizen receives a phone call from Maximus, the caller ID should identify the call as the FL DOH 833-917-2880,” according to the statement.

Berman still has questions about the contractor.

“I still don’t understand why this company was picked,” Berman said.

Florida contracted with two companies for various temporary staffing needs, including contact tracing.

Favorite Healthcare Staffing was founded in Washington state.

News 6 reported on the company last month after Adrienne Barker came forward saying she was paid for weeks as a contact tracer, but never given an assignment.

[RELATED: News 6 report prompts Florida lawmaker to call for investigation into state’s contact tracing program]

State Rep. Rene Plasencia (Orlando- R) saw the story and called for an investigation.

The company is also being sued by a group of nurses who worked at the COVID-19 testing center at the Orange County Convention Center for allegedly violating labor laws.

“I’m not satisfied with the contact tracing in our state. I don’t think we’re doing it well enough,” Berman said.

Maximus is based out of Virginia. A spokesperson said in an email “their contact tracing work is relatively new.”

Berman questions if that lack of experience in the field led to their calls showing up as potential spam.

“I don’t understand why we did that,” Berman said. “I would have liked to have seen a Florida company hired that would hire all of these Florida people who are unemployed.”

Most phones will show potential spam and show the number. If you see 833-917-2880 you need to take that call, but Maximus says it should show up now as the Florida Department of Health.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.