What is Contact Tracing, and Why is it Important?


Lyndsey Rowan, Writer

Contact Tracers Speak Out on What They Do and Why it is Done

Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who may have come into contact with an infected person (in this case, infected with Covid-19). It also involves the collection of further information about these contacts, in order to isolate them and reduce the spread of the virus. Zoe Anderson and Kiersten Anderson are contact tracers, and they have offered to share their entire contact tracing process.

The first step in contact tracing is knowing who to talk to.

Kiersten says that “when we get a case, the state of California tells us.” Receiving that news is the very first step in the Covid-19 tracing process.

After that, the tracers must contact that person and gather some information about them.

“First you do what is called the contact investigation, which is where we call the person who tested positive and we ask them everywhere that they’ve been 2 days before they either started to feel sick or they got their positive test,” states Kiersten.

“Most everything is done by phone call, if I have to write a letter to a boss or explain someone is on ordered quarantine or isolation then I [use] email sometimes,” elaborates Zoe.

The contact tracers need more to work with than just where their case has been over the past 2 days.

“If they’re a positive case, then you collect from them if they have symptoms, when their symptom onset was, you find out who their close contacts were, find out if they are living alone, find out if they have been going to work or do work. Of course, you get their general information like name, date of birth, address, but essentially the most important part is getting their contacts’ information and also making sure that I am giving them quarantine or isolation order and we figure out an isolation date for them”, explains Zoe.

Contact tracing is important for a couple of reasons.

According to Zoe, contact tracing is important because “if you have someone with covid, [and] you find out all their contacts who could potentially be positive or be a threat to the community… and could become positive … then we can stop them from having contact with even more people, so you can really slow the spread of transmission” and “you can decrease the number of people who do become Covid positive.”

According to Kiersten, contact tracing is necessary because “contact tracing allows us to keep sick people out of the community, at home instead of at their jobs, instead of at the grocery stores, and so that protects everyone else in the community as well.” She believes that contact tracing is “one of the best tools we have to limit the spread, especially in a community as small as ours.”

Zoe Anderson, Kiersten Andersen, Covid-19, Contact Tracing, Lyndsey Rowan, Public Health