Context of case investigations and contact tracing
Case investigations and contact tracing are reliable public health tools used to prevent the spread of contagious diseases. Contact tracing is not a new tool – public health uses it every day for other contagious diseases like measles and tuberculosis (TB). Contact tracing is an important part of how Virginia can stop the spread of COVID-19.
Who are the case investigators and contact tracers?
Case Investigators and Contact Tracers are qualified and trained public health professionals. They find people who test positive for an infection or who may have been exposed and provide advice on how to stop its spread.
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has worked hard to conduct case investigations and contact tracing since the start of the COVID-19 response. It is important that community members trust these public health professionals, respond to their awareness and follow their advice to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Why does VDH conduct case investigation and contact tracing?
Contact tracing and case investigations are important because they help VDH to:
- Provide guidance and education on how to protect yourself and others
- Inform public health actions
- Understanding communities hard hit by COVID-19
- Tracking the progress of the outbreak in Virginia
- Connecting people to community resources they might need
VDH COVID-19 Contact Tracing Process
1. You are diagnosed with COVID-19 by your healthcare professional:
You were told by your health care provider that you have COVID-19 based on a positive COVID-19 test result or because of your illness. You should stay home, stay away from others (isolate), and take care of yourself, regardless of your vaccination status. Learn more about the steps you can take to protect others in your home and community if you have COVID-19.
2. VDH is notified when a person with COVID-19 is identified:
Doctors, laboratories and hospitals are required by law to report when someone has or might have certain illnesses, including COVID-19. This reporting allows your local health department to track COVID-19 in the community and provide education and support to those infected.
3. A health department case investigator may contact the person with COVID-19 to help identify anyone who may have been exposed:
The health department case investigator may contact you (usually by phone) for a voluntary and confidential conversation. Because this call contains health information, the call or voicemail may seem vague at first to protect your health information. However, you must answer or return the call to confirm that you are the person they are trying to reach and to find out why you were contacted by the health department. During this interview, the Case Investigator will ask you pre-approved questions to learn more about you and your illness. The interviewer will work with you to create a list of all the people you may have had close contact with while you were sick and just before you felt sick. This process helps find people who may have been exposed to COVID-19.
4. People who may have been exposed can be contacted by a contact tracer:
Once the people you had close contact with while you were infectious have been identified, a contact tracer can contact the people who were exposed and recommend the steps they need to take to stop the spread of COVID- 19.
If you are exposed to someone with COVID-19, your local health department may ask you to register with Sara Alert™. Sara Alert is an online tool the health department uses to monitor the health of people who have COVID-19 or who may have been exposed to it. Sara Alert allows the person to report daily how they are feeling by SMS, email or phone. The message will come from 844-957-2721 or an email from email@example.com. By registering with Sara Alert™, you can let the health department know how you are feeling and help slow the spread of COVID-19 in your community. Learn more about How Sara Alert™ works.
Protection of your personal information
Unless you give your permission, your name will not be given to those you have come into contact with, even if they ask for it. This conversation will be confidential to protect and respect your privacy.
Protecting your privacy means that VDH will never share your name or medical records with your contacts without your consent. Your information cannot be shared with other people such as family members, roommates or neighbors. If you are identified as a contact, this means that VDH cannot give you the name of the person who identified you as someone who may have been exposed to COVID-19.
Will to be contacted? Will I be contacted on behalf of my child?
VDH has refocusing contact tracing efforts. However, you can still be contacted on your own or on behalf of a dependent. VDH encourages individuals to take appropriate action if they suspect or confirm COVID-19 infection. Public health personnel may call to gather information in response to reported COVID-19 clusters and outbreaks or other targeted situations. If you have COVID-19, you can help let people you know know that they may have been exposed:
- You can call, text, or email your contacts to let them know they may have been exposed to COVID-19.
- If you wish to remain anonymous, there are online tools that allow you to tell your contacts by sending emails or SMS notifications anonymously to informyourcontacts.org. You can also use a exposure notification app like COVIDNOTICE.
- the VDH Notify your contacts The resource provides sample messages, recommendations, and a journal to help you identify your close contacts.
I received a COVIDWISE exposure notification. What should I do?
Exposure notification apps, like COVIDWISE, use Bluetooth technology to support traditional contact tracing. If you receive an exposure notification from Virginia’s free COVIDWISE exposure notification app, it means your device was in close contact with the device of someone who recently tested positive for COVID-19. You must follow the steps to follow after an exposure to stop the spread of COVID-19.
For more information:
Page last updated: January 312021