BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and city officials are urging city residents to answer calls to COVID-19 contact tracers. Health department officials said they will not share personal information with police or immigration agencies.

“Let me emphasize that we do not share your personal information with anyone, not the police, not immigration, not IRS, no other agency,” said Will Smith, senior manager for the case investigation contact tracing team for the Baltimore City Health Department. “We are the health department and the only reason we need this information is to help you help your family and your friends from becoming sick and also help those that are sick.”

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“We don’t snitch to your friends,” Smith said, adding they are only collecting information for the sake of informing others of possible exposure and to collect information for the health department to trace COVID-19 spread.

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Officials announced they are launching a new campaign, Baltimore Vs. COVID, to help increase the response rate for contact tracer calls. If you see MD COVID or if you see 240-466-4488 on your phone, that is a contact tracer.

Scott reiterated the severity of the coronavirus and how the virus is affecting hospital capacity. Baltimore is at 90% of its ICU capacity.

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“I think it goes without saying, but we’ll say it again — COVID-19 is real and is serious. People are dying and we all can work towards helping the spread of this virus by doing simple things,” Scott said. “This is not a hoax. This is not a fake flu. This is not something that’s gonna come and go. It will kill you. It will kill your family members.”

This comes as the state reported 29,578 total coronavirus cases in Baltimore City as of Monday, Dec. 21 and reported 647 city residents have died from the virus as of Monday. City officials said 603 city residents have died from the virus.

“Again in Baltimore City we have reached widespread community transmission and it is safe to assume that people not in your household could be carriers of COVID, even if they aren’t showing symptoms,” said city health commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa.

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For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

CBS Baltimore Staff