What is Contact Tracing?
Contact tracing is a decades-old disease control method used in public health to help stop the spread of infectious diseases by identifying, testing, and isolating those who are sick. This involves interviewing those who are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, determining those people who have been in close contact with the positive individual during the timeframe when they may have been infectious (e.g., 14 days), and connecting with contacts to provide guidance. Throughout this process, your identity is kept private. Contacts will not receive your information during follow-up.
Contact tracing is a decades-old disease control method used in public health to help stop the spread of infectious diseases by identifying, testing, and isolating those who are sick.
What is a Contact Tracer?
Contact tracers are essential throughout this process as they help to facilitate interviews of those positive for COVID-19 as well as any people with whom they may have come into contact. They reach out to, educate, and follow-up with individuals potentially exposed to the virus. Tracers are highly trained personnel who:
- Connect with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, interview them about their symptoms, and explain the need for social distance.
- Collect information about close contacts from the timeframe leading up to the diagnosis who may have been exposed to COVID-19.
- Notify those individuals listed as contacts of their potential exposure, providing them resources on monitoring symptoms.
- Perform regular check-ins in order to better support contacts and ensure safe quarantine as they monitor their health through a specified timeframe.
- Provide supportive services, including medical and social resources, to both suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 as well as their close contacts.
How will a Contact Tracer reach me?
When a person tests positive for COVID-19, they are asked to identify anyone they have had contact with over a period of time (e.g., 14 days). Based on these details, a contact tracer will reach out via phone to notify of potential exposure and discuss next steps.
The contact tracer will ask questions, such as:
- Do you have symptoms? If yes, what and when did the symptoms start?
- Have you been tested? If yes, what were the results? Did you isolate yourself from others?
- If and when you have traveled? What mode of transportation (bus, airplane, etc.) was used?
It is important to note that all information provided throughout the contact tracing process is kept confidential, even to those individuals identified as close contacts.
How can I verify the call is from HCPH?
In an effort to reduce fraud, individuals can call 832-927-7575 to verify the person who called is a verified contact tracer from Harris County Public Health (HCPH).
What happens if I am contacted?
Contacts are provided with information and support to better understand their risk. If they have not already been tested for COVID-19, they will be urged to do so. It is important that contacts monitor themselves for symptoms of illness, checking their temperature and watching for cough or shortness of breath. Contacts are also encouraged to maintain social distance (at least 6 feet) from others for a minimum of 14 days following their last exposure to decrease the likelihood of spreading the illness should they develop symptoms.
What about my privacy?
The identity and health information of confirmed individuals and close contacts are always kept private. This information will not be shared with anyone, including those who may have been exposed.
Individuals who are contacted will not be asked about immigration or legal status and will never be asked to provide sensitive information like social security number or financial details (i.e., credit card number, bank account numbers).
All information that is collected from testing facilities and contact tracers is kept confidential and protected. This data is only collected and stored for use by local and state public health departments.