Case investigations and contact tracing
Case investigation and contact tracing are important parts of how public health responds and stops disease outbreaks. People who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 are more at risk of getting infected and making others sick. Contact tracing is how public health workers find the close contacts of someone who has COVID-19.
Will the health department call me when I test positive for COVID-19?
If you test positive for COVID-19, the healthcare provider or testing site will give you your test results.
The health department will also try to contact you to conduct a case investigation. A public health worker may call you or send you a text or email. A case investigation is when a public health worker interviews you about possible exposures to COVID-19. The public health worker will ask you where you’ve been while you were infectious, when symptoms started, and who else may have been exposed. He or she will also ask you if you need help finding other resources like food or housing to help you be able to isolate.
Contact tracing happens after a case investigation is done. Contact tracing is how public health finds who else may have been exposed to a virus or disease and then contacts these people to let them know how long they should quarantine. Contact tracing also provides support to individuals who were exposed and who may need other services so they can quarantine.
Contact tracing process
1. Jane and Dan were at the same birthday party.
2. A few days later, Dan gets symptoms of COVID-19. He gets tested. Dan tests positive for COVID-19.
3. The health department works with Dan to find out the places he has been and who he has spent time with.
4. The health department calls Jane to tell her she may have been exposed to COVID-19. They tell her what she needs to do next.
Will the health department call me if I am exposed to COVID-19?
Public health workers from the health department try to contact everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 or who is exposed to someone with COVID-19. A public health worker may call you or send you a text or email letting you know you were exposed and should quarantine.
During times of surge, when there are a lot of people testing positive for COVID-19, public health resources get overwhelmed. It may take several days for the health department to contact a person who tested positive and do a case investigation. Health departments may need to stop doing contact tracing. If you know you were exposed to someone with COVID-19, it is critical that you quarantine, even if the health department hasn’t contacted you yet. Do not wait for the health department to call you to quarantine.
Automated case investigation and contact tracing
The Utah Department of Health and Utah’s local health departments are using a new automated case investigation and contact tracing program starting in December 2020. This new program will help us reach people who have tested positive or been exposed to COVID-19 faster.
A public health worker will try to reach you by phone after you test positive for COVID-19 or if you are exposed to someone with COVID-19. If the public health worker is unable to reach you by phone, you may receive a text or email. The text or email will come from Utah public health contact tracing teams and include a link to a form which will ask you about where you may have been exposed to the virus and who else may be at risk for getting COVID-19. The text will also have a phone number you can call if you have questions. The URL for the form will include a “health.utah.gov” address. Our contact tracing teams will never ask you for your bank information, credit card numbers, or social security number.
The form and information you provide to the health department is stored on a secure database. The information you provide is considered private health information and will not be made public. Only the state or local health department in the county where you live will have access to this information. The information collected on the form is the same information a public health worker would ask you about if he or she was to do the case investigation or contact tracing with you over the phone. You will also be asked to give the names and contact information for anyone who was in close contact with you while you were infectious. This information helps public health know who else may be at risk for getting COVID-19 and needs to quarantine. We will not share your name or contact information with these people. A text or email will then be sent to your close contacts letting them know how long to quarantine and when to get tested for COVID-19.
Will someone from the health department check on me every day to see how I am feeling?
There are two ways you may be asked to monitor for symptoms if you are quarantined. One way is called active-monitoring. On active-monitoring, a public health worker contacts you one time a day to check on you and ask you how you are feeling. You may get a phone call or text from the health department if you are quarantined to see if you have any symptoms or need help finding resources.
The other way is called self-monitoring. On self-monitoring, the health department will not call or text you every day. Instead, you will monitor your symptoms every day and call the health department or a healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns. If you get sick or develop symptoms of COVID-19 while you are on quarantine, you should get tested. You can find a testing location near you at: https://coronavirus.utah.gov/testing-locations.
Right now in Utah, public health does not have the capacity to do active monitoring. Instead, you should do what is called self-monitoring.
What to do if you are on quarantine or isolation
My employer won’t let me come back to work unless I have a letter from the health department saying I am done with isolation or quarantine. What should I do?
You may email the Utah Department of Health contact tracing team at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also contact your local health department. You can find a list of the local health departments in Utah at https://ualhd.org. If you tested positive using an at-home COVID-19 test, you can use the isolation letter here.