What is contact tracing? How does it relate to COVID testing?

Contact tracing was one of our most innovative weapons employed against COVID-19 at the onset of the pandemic. The premise is simple: after testing positive for COVID, a contact tracer will interview you by phone in order to try to determine how you ended up catching it.

How does contact tracing work? What do you have to do? Fortunately, the good news is that you won’t have to do a lot after contracting the coronavirus—one phone call, and you’ve already done your part.

First things first: what is contact tracing?

What’s contact tracing as it relates to your life? Basically, it’s a phone call that you may receive once your medical records show that you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19—your physician is required to report these statistics by law.

For ordinary people, contact tracing is an outreach effort meant not only to keep communities safe and informed, but also to understand more about COVID-19 as it exists in the general population.

This case investigation begins as soon as your doctor reports your positive COVID-19 test results—the trained contact tracer will come to you, with no additional action required on your part. All that you have to do is pick up the phone; the call will usually take anywhere from thirty minutes to half an hour.

While this effort takes place voluntarily, we can wholeheartedly attest to the value of contact tracing in any community, including through schools, places of residence, one’s workplace, and other important social networks.

What happens when you get the call?

After being diagnosed, your public health worker may give you a call in order to get to the bottom of your case. The questions that they ask won’t be difficult for you to answer, and may include any of these examples:

  • What’s your name, date of birth, and primary language?
  • Other demographic inquiries, such as gender, address, race, and email
  • When do you think you were exposed?
  • Does your line of work put you at risk?
  • Do you take public transportation?
  • Where have you been recently?
  • Who have you seen or been in close contact with?
  • How many people are living in your household?
  • What symptoms are you experiencing?
  • How long have you been experiencing COVID symptoms?
  • When were you tested for COVID?
  • Did you receive COVID-19 treatment, such as ventilation or hospitalization?
  • Do you have any pre-existing conditions that make you more susceptible?

Those who have been in close proximity to you for more than 15 minutes since you contracted the virus, whether living with you in your household or simply waiting in line with you at the bank, are called your “contacts.” This COVID-19 outreach program is designed to create what is essentially a social web in an attempt to sleuth out the source of every surge and major outbreak.

Sometimes, this pool of information remains incomplete, either through a lack of case detection or a refusal to participate. Even data sets lacking many COVID-positive patients and their testimonies can provide a lot of insight, however.

Through contact tracing of any caliber, we learn more about the way that things like the coronavirus move throughout society, as well as factors that may be putting some populations at risk inequitably.

The benefits of contact tracing for COVID-19

Some of the most important reasons to participate in contact tracing efforts include the following:

  • COVID-positive individuals may be referred to vital resources and support through their contact tracing network
  • COVID-negative individuals can be notified whenever they come into contact with somebody carrying the virus officially
  • Public policy and new measures now have tons of new data to abide by, providing plenty of perspective on what actually keeps people healthy

While we’ve never been on the receiving end of a contact tracing scam ourselves, we know that these tricksters and ne’er-do-wells are out there. Contact tracers will never ask for money, donations, or personal information like your social security number.

Mostly, a contact tracing call brings more to the table than it asks to take away—you’ll be asked questions and be given information about your predicament, all of which remains completely confidential and private to you.

Answer the call: contact tracing keeps communities on track

Contact tracing helps us shed light on the truth behind the coronavirus. Before, we were pretty much pontificating into thin air in want of real pandemic solutions.

While much about COVID-19 still remains something of a mystery, few will contest the fact that the path ahead is now much clearer than it was a couple of years ago.

There’s only a few things to do after being blindsided by disaster: take a deep breath, pick up the pieces, and take careful account of all that truly remains. Then, the real work can finally begin.

Still have questions?

Gone are the days of crowded waiting rooms, daunting hospitals, and cold exam tables. At Rume, we offer care on your terms, where and when you need it, including telemedicine, drive thrus, and popups. You’ll get quick results and trusted insights.