Coronavirus call center: A look inside Ohio’s operation in Columbus

Ohio Department of Health set up a call center with experts to answer COVID-19 questions from the public. LAURA BISCHOFF
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Ohio Department of Health set up a call center with experts to answer COVID-19 questions from the public. LAURA BISCHOFF

Twenty-five health experts are taking call after call in the basement of the Ohio Department of Health, answering questions about Coronavirus and calming fears, and Gov. Mike DeWine scheduled another press conference on the outbreak for 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Ohio Statehouse.

“As soon as you hang up, another call comes in,” said Debra Seltzer, an ODH employee working the phones.

The call center, which operates 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, can be reached at 833-4-ASK-ODH. People with questions can also visit www.coronavirus.ohio.gov.

“Most people are very, very grateful that we’re here,” said one worker staffing the center. The goal is to give out reliable information, she said. “I think just giving facts — what we know for sure. There’s a lot of people who are reading things on Facebook or just hearing things from other people. So, just calming their concerns.”

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After visiting the call center on Wednesday, DeWine said the state would be expanding the number of people answering the phones and move the center to a more spacious room.

ODH Nursing Coordinator Drema Phelps said most of the calls come from concerned citizens who want to be prepared during the outbreak.

“The information that we have is the most up to date information regarding some of the questions so it just helps to have someone say, yes, this is the answer. As the information comes along, we will update it. The other thing we provide is resources. There are websites — Ohio Department of Health website, CDC website,” Phelps said.

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