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

AP Illustration / Peter Hamlin;

What is contact tracing, 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 allowing places to reopen more safely.

But the process isn’t easy.

After a person tests positive for the virus, a contact tracer would get in touch with the person and attempt to determine where they have been and who they were around.

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

For those showing symptoms, the tracing process would start all over again.

Contact tracing is done in a variety of ways around the world. But a common issue is that determining who a person has been around can get harder as gatherings with friends and family resume, and as bars, restaurants and other places start reopening.

Health officials could also become overwhelmed with cases. In the U.S. for example, local health departments may rely on automated texts to alert people who may have been exposed to an infected person. Health officials prefer to call people if possible because it can help build trust. But some people never return calls or texts.

There’s also pressure to act quickly. Ideally, most of a person’s contacts would be alerted within a day.

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The AP is answering your questions about the coronavirus in this series. Submit them at: FactCheck@AP.org.

Read previous Viral Questions:

Is it safe to visit the dentist during the pandemic?

How risky is dining out during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Does wearing a mask pose any health risks?


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronaviruses transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States