Public health agencies have used contact tracing as a standard tool in controlling the spread of disease for decades. Contact tracing is the process where public health tracks how the disease is spreading and notifies people who may have been exposed. As we await a vaccine and effective treatments for COVID-19, contact tracing is one of many important tools for containing the virus.
Contact tracers and case interviewers talk to those who test positive for COVID-19 and identify and notify their close contacts. A “close contact” means the person spent 15 minutes or longer within 6 feet of a known case.
If you’re contacted by public health about a positive test or potential exposure to COVID-19, all your information is kept confidential.
How contact tracing works
The state or local public health agency will contact you to provide you with guidance and resources. Public health will ask about where you have been and with whom you’ve been in contact. They’ll then notify people who may have been exposed by you. However, they will not give those people your identity.
Public health calls your contacts to provide important information, but doesn’t tell them their information came from you.
Contact tracing, safety, and privacy
- All contact tracers are trained in how to manage health and other sensitive information in order to protect your privacy.
- The public health worker who contacts you will state their name and their organization. They should provide you a number to call back to verify their identity and contact information for their supervisor when the caller requests it.
- Public health will never ask for your social security number or financial information. If a caller asks for this information, do not give it.
- Currently, public health will not be going “door to door” to conduct contact tracing. For the foreseeable future, all contact tracing for COVID-19 will be over the phone or through secure online forms.
- Only certain people at your local public health agency and the state health department can see your information. It is only used to reach out to your contacts with important information about testing and next steps. Public health will not share your information with other entities or outside organizations.
- Public health does not share your health or personal identifying information without your permission.
- Public health stores records securely.
Answer the call! You are the key to making contact tracing work.
You are not required to talk to public health. But we hope you will. We can give you important information you need to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. You can provide valuable information to help us contain this deadly virus and keep the economy open. Together, we can slow the spread of COVID-19 to keep our community healthy and our economy running.
Frequently asked questions
In Colorado, local public health agencies lead contact tracing efforts in their communities. The state supports local agencies in their efforts and may call individuals on behalf of local agencies in some circumstances. The state provides coordination of the data and technical assistance as needed.
Colorado statute gives local public health agencies authority “to investigate and control the causes of epidemic diseases and conditions” and also to establish, maintain, and enforce quarantine and isolation to protect the public health. Public health agencies have used contact tracing to contain other viruses and disease outbreaks.
Contact tracers reach out to and interview patients with COVID-19 and their contacts.
COVID-19 navigators provide support services to people who are in isolation or quarantine. Navigators make sure that patients have the knowledge and support they need to successfully complete their isolation or quarantine periods.
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, it is important for you to know that worker protections are in place to ensure that you can isolate yourself. This is both for your own health and recovery and for the safety of everyone around you.
Federal law requires up to two weeks paid leave for those who work for employers with fewer than 500 employees (though some employers with 50 or fewer employees may be exempt). The Colorado Health Emergency Leave with Pay Rules (“Colorado HELP Rules”) adds coverage for workers as well. Read more in the FAQ
Additionally, there are many resources available to help you if you need to isolate or quarantine, including help with food, lodging, and personal financial help.
CDPHE and local public health agencies will distribute a survey using a text message with a link to a secure form to support contact tracing. The survey will never ask recipients to provide their social security number or any information related to their banking or finances. It will come from the number 31096.
At this time, the only legitimate survey for contact tracing would come from 31096. Check back to this page to see if local agencies add new numbers.
No. The Symptom Support tool can connect you with important resources to help you manage symptoms, but any information you provide will not be used for contact tracing. If you reported your symptoms, this would not replace the case interview – please answer the call!