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What is contact tracing? How do we do it?

This question is from a series of questions and answers on Worker Rights and Strategies for Staying Safe During COVID-19 created by National COSH to support workers during the pandemic.


Contact tracing is used by health departments and public health organizations to prevent the spread of infectious disease. This involves identifying people who have an infectious disease (cases) and people who they came in contact with (contacts) and working with them to interrupt disease spread.

This information is extremely important for any outbreak of COVID cases in a workplace. If and when an outbreak occurs, employers- with input from workers- should re-evaluate protections in place and improve controls to prevent other workers from getting infected.

Contact tracing for COVID-19 typically involves:

  • Interviewing people with COVID-19 to identify everyone they had close contact with during the time they may have been infectious.
  • Notifying contacts and co-workers of their potential exposure.
  • Referring contacts for testing and guaranteeing confidentiality.
  • Monitoring contacts for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Connecting contacts with services they might need during the self-quarantine period and improving workplace conditions to prevent additional infections.