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UPDATE: National Guard helping keep 211 wait times down

The health and human services information line went from 400 calls a day before the pandemic to 1,800 calls a day during the vaccine rollout.

PORTLAND, Ore. — UPDATE: According to 211info CEO Dan Herman, 30 Oregon National Guard personnel began helping with the 211 call queue on Feb. 8. By Feb. 10, Herman said, there was "virtually no wait to speak to a representative at 211info."

Original story below:

Many seniors and those without internet access have come to rely on 211 for answers about COVID-19. But officials with the hotline say their virtual call center has been overwhelmed as they try to keep up with growing demand, especially during the vaccine rollout.

“It got ahead of us really quickly,” said Dan Herman, CEO of 211info.

211info is Oregon and Southwest Washington's information referral line for health and human services. Before the pandemic, Herman said they took about 400 calls a day. After becoming Oregon's COVID-19 hotline contracted through the Oregon Health Authority, Herman said that number grew to a 1,000 calls a day. Recently, he said call volume has increased again, at times reaching 1,800 calls a day.

“Now with the vaccine, we have questions about eligibility. 'What phase am I in?' and 'What should I be doing to get ready?'” said Herman.

RELATED: Some PNW pharmacies uncertain when they'll get COVID vaccines

Herman admits it's been a struggle to keep up with demand, resulting in wait times of over an hour for some callers. He's more than doubled his call staff to 140 people and plans to hire 20 to 30 more temporary workers as the vaccine rollout continues. Those interested in applying for a call staff job can learn more here

Herman offered tips for reaching someone through 211 in a timely manner. He said call volume is highest in the morning but lightest on weekends, suggesting people are better off to avoid calling in the morning. Also, he recommended leaving a message if possible so that someone can call back.

“You're leaving information,” said Herman, “And we're not taking your time on hold.”

RELATED: Oregon will prioritize vaccinating inmates after judge’s ruling

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