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What Is Contact Tracing?

You may have heard a lot of buzz around contact tracing lately. But what exactly is it? Contact tracing is a public health tool typically used by health departments to identify people who have an infectious disease and who they’ve been in contact with.

Contact tracing is essential in helping prevent more people from getting sick and keeping our communities safe.

It’s been around for decades and is currently part of the efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

How does contact tracing generally work?

  • A person with COVID-19 may be interviewed by a ‘contact tracer’ to identify every person they’ve been in contact with during the time they’ve been infectious. These people are called ‘contacts.’
  • Contacts will be notified of their potential exposure. They may be asked to get tested and monitor their signs and symptoms for a period of time. All contacts are encouraged to stay home and away from others for 14 days after exposure.
  • Every state has their own contact tracing model. Check out this tool to help you better understand what’s happening in your state.
  • Some areas use manual contact tracing where you get a phone call or fill out a questionnaire. Other areas use digital platforms to send out automated messages or ask people to sign up for a contact tracing app.

How can you help?

  • The more people who help in contact tracing efforts, the safer you, your family, and your community will be.
  • If you’ve tested positive for COVID-19, make sure to notify your healthcare provider. A contact tracer may then reach out to ask about the people you’ve recently spent time with. The more you can remember, the better.
  • If you’re contacted because you may have been exposed, be sure to do your part and follow the recommendations. The contact tracer may also be able to refer you to helpful resources.
  • Keep in mind that contact tracing should be voluntary and confidential. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or voice any concerns you may have during the process. And here are tips for spotting scams.


CDC. Contact Tracing for COVID-19.

NASHP. State Approaches to Contact Tracing during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

CDC. Quarantine If You Might Be Sick.

FTC. Contact Tracing Call? 5 Things to Know.

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