COVID-19 Contact Tracing
What is contact tracing?
Contact tracing is how public health officials track the spread of an infectious disease outbreak. When a patient is confirmed to have an illness, they isolate themselves to prevent further spread of that illness. Public health staff help those who have been infected recall where they have been and with whom they had close contact while they were infectious. Those “contacts” are contacted by public health staff and asked to quarantine themselves to stop further spread of the illness.
Who is considered a contact?
Contact tracing focuses on close contacts while a positive patient was infectious. The infectious period begins 48 hours before the patient’s symptoms began. If the person with COVID-19 never developed symptoms, the infectious period begins the 48 hours before the positive test was collected. A person is considered a close contact if they have been within 6 feet of the patient for at least 15 minutes. If a person is thought to be a close contact, then a contact tracer will give them a call. If the exposure wasn’t within 6 feet, if it didn’t last 15 minutes or more, or if it occurred before the infectious period, that person would not be considered a close contact and will not receive a phone call from a contact tracer.
What if I am a contact to a person with COVID-19?
If you have had close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19, you will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days. A quarantine of 14 days is needed because you may develop COVID-19 anytime during the virus’s incubation period, which is 14 days. If you work in a critical infrastructure job, it may be possible for you to still work while under quarantine. The Arkansas Department of Health will coordinate such arrangements with your employer.
In addition, you will be encouraged to get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible – in case you already have COVID-19 but don’t have any symptoms yet. You will still be required to complete the 14 days of quarantine, even if your test comes back negative, because you could still develop the illness later in the quarantine period.
When will I receive a call?
Case investigators reach out to COVID-19 patients shortly after a positive test result is confirmed in order to learn about the patient’s close contacts. The contact tracer then calls each of the close contacts to inform them about their exposure to COVID-19 and give them instructions about how to quarantine. The goal is to reach the close contacts within a day or two after the positive test result is received. Sometimes it takes longer.
What if I never heard from a contact tracer?
You might not hear from a contact tracer if the exposure you had was not enough to put you at increased risk of COVID-19 transmission. For example, the exposure may not have been for at least 15 minutes, or it may have occurred prior to the infectious period. Please email us at ADH.CoronaVirus@arkansas.gov or call us at 1-800-803-7847, if you have not been reached by a contact tracer and you believe you may be a close contact.
What can contact tracers do for close contacts?
Contact tracers reach out to contacts to help them safely quarantine, find alternate arrangements as necessary, and help them get tested for COVID-19, if recommended. The ADH can also help Arkansans with things such as food delivery or alternative housing if they need extra support to safely self-quarantine.
Contact tracers also educate individuals on the need to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19, and they request permission to enroll the person in the SARA (Situational Awareness Response Assistant) Alert system.
What number will they call from?
Case investigators will call from a variety of phone numbers. It’s possible you won’t recognize the number, but it’s important to answer or return the call if it goes to voicemail. A contact tracer will then follow up and reach out to your close contacts. This call will come from a different phone number. Many of our contact tracers will use these numbers:
- (877) ARCOV19 or (877) 272-6819
- (833) CVD-2019 or (833) 283-2019
How can I verify the call is legitimate?
The case investigator and contact tracer will never ask for your Social Security number, bank account number, or credit card. If the caller ever discusses money, that’s a sign that it is not a legitimate Department of Health investigator. If you want to verify that you have been contacted by a Health Department case investigator or contact tracer, you may call (800) 803-7847.
If you haven’t spoken to a tracer on the phone to enroll in the automated SARA Alert program for reporting symptoms, beware of text messages asking you to click on a link. It could be a scammer. A tracer will not send you any links to click before speaking with you on the phone.
If you believe you have been contacted by a scammer posing as an official, you can report these calls to the Attorney General’s office online at www.ArkansasAG.gov, by emailing OAG@ArkansasAG.gov or by calling (800) 482-8982. Please note the time of the call and the number it came from when you report it.
What is SARA Alert?
SARA Alert is an automated system that sends a daily email, text message or automated phone call to individuals identified as a close contact of a COVID-19-positive person. Enrollees are asked if they are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, and if symptoms are reported, SARA Alert flags the case for follow-up by ADH staff. SARA Alert also allows the ADH to compile reports for identification of specific areas to target for testing and to provide information for decision-making by state leaders.
How can I apply to be a contact tracer?:
The Arkansas Department of Health has contracted with two firms, General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) and Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care (AFMC), to handle contact tracing.
- Click here to apply for contact tracing jobs through GDIT
- For AFMC positions
Celia McDonald, Staffing Account Manager
Phone: 866-820-0132 x701