What’s contact tracing, and the way does it work with COVID-19?

What is contact tracing, and how does it work with COVID-19?

AP Illustration / Peter Hamlin

What is contact tracking and how does it work with COVID-19?

The goal of contact tracing is to alert people who may have been exposed to someone with the coronavirus and prevent them from spreading it to others. Health experts say contact tracing is key to containing the virus and reopening places more safely.

But the process is not easy.

After a person tested positive for the virus, a contact tracer contacted the person and tried to determine where they were and who they were.

The focus is on close contacts or people who have been within 6 feet of the infected person for at least 10 minutes. These people would then be asked to self-isolate, monitor themselves for symptoms, and get tested if necessary.

For those showing symptoms, the persecution process would start over.

Contact tracking is done in different ways around the world. A common problem, however, is that when gatherings with friends and family resume and bars, restaurants, and other places reopen, it can become more difficult to tell who a person was around.

Health officials could also be overwhelmed with cases. For example, in the United States, local health departments can rely on automated texts to warn people who may have been exposed to an infected person. Health officials prefer to call people whenever possible as this can help build confidence. However, some people never return calls or texts.

There is also pressure to act quickly. Ideally, most of a person's contacts will be notified within a day.

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