By Anna Phillips | January 28, 2021 at 2:29 PM EST – Updated January 28 at 7:49 PM
PENDER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) – In its first six days of operation, Pender County’s new COVID-19 call center received over 5,000 phone calls.
The county offered part-time jobs to former election workers to answer the phones after the health department became overwhelmed by phone calls.
The staff can’t book appointments but they do have access to the wait list and schedule of appointments and can tell people whether they’re still on this list, how far down they are and what the latest vaccine information is.
Pender County began a wait list for those 65 & older who qualify and would like to receive the vaccine; however, they were forced to stop adding names to the list last week when it reached more than 4,000 names and calling everyone back became unmanageable.
The county has far more people wanting to book an appointment than vaccines available and is not currently making new appointments. The health department urges anyone who wants to receive a vaccine to monitor local news reports and their social media channels for updates and announcements.
“It’s hard to take care of a list of even 2,000, much less 4,000, when you’re allocated a supply of 200 doses a week, and that was our supply that came in on Tuesday. And, we’re at the annex in Hampstead today giving those doses so we have no doses on our shelves and we hope to get about 400 next week,” said Health Director Carolyn Moser.
For some people—especially those who don’t use much technology—the telephone is a lifeline and these people are happy to be able to help, even if their message isn’t always what people want to hear.
“Not everyone has a computer. They don’t have a smartphone, and I’ll say ‘well just watch your t.v.’ and they may not even have a t.v. and so, they really have this phone number. So, they can call back and that’s their outreach. So it’s important that we do have it, and that we’re here to talk to them and we can bring them up to speed,” said Curt Murdock. He and his wife, Suzanne are part-time workers answering the phones. “Those are the people I really feel for, and I tell them ‘call back everyday. Call back as often as you want,’” he said.
Callers are put in a queue, which gives them the opportunity to wait rather than having to call back.
“We’re believers in the vaccination and how that’s going to control the pandemic so we want to do everything we can do to help people get their vaccinations,” Suzanne Murdock said.
The average wait time is under one minute, but on Monday, January 25, the call center saw it’s highest volume of calls so far with more than 1,200 that day and the average wait time was around five minutes.
You’re also welcome to call the COVID-19 call center as often as you like.
The number to call is (910) 663-4200. The call center is staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
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