A different kind of first responder
April 13, 2020
There is one group of unsung COVID-19 heroes that you can hear but never see. As we rightfully celebrate workers in healthcare, grocery stores, and other essential services, Focus-19 wants to recognize the country’s 2-1-1 specialists whose voices greet callers in need nearly 1,000 times every hour. These professionals are America’s first responders for information, listening to callers needs and connecting them to community resources to help get food, pay rent, or other health and social services. Our analyses found that in just 24 states (and a smattering of counties in seven other states), 2-1-1 information specialists have handled nearly ¾ million phone requests for help since March 12, the day after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. Almost overnight, these 2-1-1 information specialists went from fielding 14,000 requests per day to 23,000 requests – a 65% increase. The chart below shows the daily totals for all types of requests from January 1 to April 12, 2020. Mouse over the bar for each day to see the total requests received. Of some relief to exhausted information specialists: the number of 2-1-1 requests appears to be declining from its COVID-19 peak, though it is still much higher than normal. Statewide data for these analyses came from AL, AR, CT, DE, FL, HI, IA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, NC, NE, NJ, NV, NY, PA, SC, SD, VA, WI, WY; Selected counties were also included from CA, IL, IN, KS, KY, OH, TN.
Contributors: Rachel Garg, Balaji Golla, Irum Javed, Matthew Kreuter