The Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD) in California manages a broad array of programs and services designed to protect the health and safety of 1.5 million residents across 13 Bay Area cities. Because those services include disease prevention and control, health education, and medical and health care services, the COVID-19 outbreak prompted a spike in phone calls to the organization. The department’s call agents, which typically receive about 300 calls a week, received nearly 1,800 calls per week in March. ACPHD was quickly overwhelmed, causing the average time to handle a call to grow to five minutes and 42 seconds, and the average queue time increasing from nearly nothing to 38 minutes.
“We received an unmanageable number of calls from the public regarding COVID-19 and evolving shelter-in-place orders,” says Stephen De La Vega, information systems manager at ACPHD. “We couldn’t conduct business as usual in that situation.”