What is contact tracing?
Contact tracing has been used for decades by state and local health departments as a tool that can help slow the spread of infectious diseases, such as coronavirus disease 2019. The health department asks each person with COVID-19 about people with whom they've recently had close contact. Health department officials then quickly (usually within 24 hours) alert people who are close contacts that they may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus. Officials don't share the name of the person who may have exposed them. This makes the contact tracing process anonymous and confidential.
Why is contract tracing needed?
The sooner health officials can alert close contacts, the lower the risk of the COVID-19 virus spreading further.
What is considered a close contact?
For COVID-19 contact tracing, a close contact is someone who's been within six feet of a person for a total of 15 minutes or more with COVID-19 within two days prior to the person's symptoms starting. Close contacts can include family, friends, co-workers and health care providers.
What do contact tracers ask you?
The health department evaluates close contacts and asks them about symptoms. Health department staff members request that close contacts be tested for the virus that causes COVID-19. They generally give close contacts several instructions. These steps can help close contacts reduce the risk of unknowingly spreading the COVID-19 virus to others. They will also ask people to self-isolate if they have COVID-19 or self-quarantine if they are a close contact of someone who has COVID-19. Your name will not be shared with those you came in contact with. They will also ask if you need support or assistance while in self-isolation, which can include food or financial assistance.
Why should you assist in contact tracing?
Making a choice to help your health department in the fight against COVID-19 helps protect you, your family, and your community.
What will happen with my personal information during contact tracing?
Discussions with health department staff are confidential. This means that your personal and medical information will be kept private and only shared with those who may need to know, like your health care provider.
If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, your name will not be shared with those you came in contact with. The health department will only notify people you were in close contact with that they might have been exposed to COVID-19.
Contact tracers will not ask you for:
- Social Security number
- Bank account number
- Salary information
- Credit card numbers
Am I considered a close contact if I was wearing a mask?
Yes, you are still considered a close contact even if you were wearing a mask while you were around someone with COVID-19. Masks are meant to protect other people in case you are infected, and not to protect you from becoming infected.