Contact tracing: how does it work?

An overview from the NYS Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control on contact tracing:
Contact tracing CDC resource
Contact tracing is the process of contacting all people who've had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Contact Tracers have been hired and trained to work with state-of-the-art software to gather information on the spread of the infection. Your participation is confidential.

How it works:

If you test positive, a COVID Contact Tracer will connect you with the support and resources you may need through quarantine, such as help getting groceries or household supplies, child care, medical care or supplies. The Tracer will work with you to identify and reach out via phone and text to anyone you’ve been in contact with while you were infectious to trace and contain the spread of the virus.

People who have come in close contact with someone who is positive are asked to stay home and limit their contact with others. By staying home during this time, IF you become sick yourself, you have not infected many others along the way. This is how we stop the spread!

Testing, medical and quarantine support for yourself and your loved ones will be arranged. We will not release your name to anyone. Your information is strictly confidential and will be treated as a private medical record.

This nation-leading program will place emphasis on areas with the highest rates of infection and on regions ready to open. The program will operate through the next flu season. It will be implemented in coordination with New Jersey and Connecticut.

Your caller ID will say “NYS Contact Tracing” (518-387-9993).

Please answer the phone so NY keeps moving forward to stop the spread of COVID-19.

What is considered close contact?

For COVID-19, a close contact is anyone without a mask who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes. An infected person can spread COVID-19 starting from 48 hours (or 2 days) before the person has any symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19.

Update Oct. 5 from our SCSD Medical Director:

What is the process that the MCDPH follows to identify close contacts of confirmed positive cases, and what is the rationale for keeping classrooms open?

Contact tracing for a COVID positive individual begins two days prior to the onset of his or her symptoms. The Monroe Department of Public Health defines a close contact to be anyone within 6 feet for 15 consecutive minutes where at least 1 of the 2 people are unmasked. If an individual is asymptomatic (no symptoms) and tests positive, the contact tracing will begin two days prior to the COVID testing.

The reason there has been little risk of exposure in school settings is because of strict adherence to mask wearing and social distancing. So far, in all but one positive case in Monroe County involving a student or school staff member, MCDPH has traced the likely point of exposure to a situation that occurred outside of a school setting. The cases are largely connected to family members, social gatherings and other recreational activities including travel.

Through our mandatory mask wearing policy and social distancing policy we are preventing COVID-19 exposures and contacts during school. It is imperative that we as a community do our part and continue to remain vigilant with our mask wearing, handwashing and social distancing in school and outside of school to minimize the spread of COVID-19.


Exclusion protocols for contacts of students or staff with COVID 19 symptoms


During contact tracing, the health department staff will not ask you for:

* Money
* Social Security number
* Bank account information
* Salary information
* Credit card numbers

To review the types of questions asked by a contact tracer, please visit this CDC link.