Contact Tracing

Together, we can protect our loved ones and limit the impact of COVID-19 on our community. With your help, we will slow the spread of COVID-19 so we can once again safely come together with friends and family.  

While right now we are safer at home, North Carolinians cannot stay home indefinitely. We can do our part to help ease measures while protecting ourselves, our loved ones, and neighbors by practicing the 3 Ws (wear, wait, wash) increasing testing and contact tracing, and tracking trends and key metrics.

NCDHHS is working with local health departments and increasing the number of contact tracers to slow the spread of COVID-19. Everyone can be part of the solution by answering the call when the COVID-19 Community Team reaches out for contact tracing. Participating in contact tracing helps to protect our loved ones. 

Community organizations are key partners in supporting North Carolina’s contact tracing efforts by publicizing and supporting contact tracing. To learn more about how our contact tracing system works, review this fact sheet.

What does contact tracing look like?

This sample scenario, available English and Spanish., takes you through the steps of contact tracing when someone has a positive test for COVID-19.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is contact tracing?

What is contact tracing?

Contact tracing is a way to reach out to people who have been near someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

For example, last week, Mia went to work and was around three co-workers. Mia then felt sick and got tested for COVID-19. Mia tested positive. The COVID-19 Community Team calls Mia to ask her who she has recently been in contact with. A member of the Community Team then reaches out to Mia’s co-workers by phone and text or email, if needed. They let her co-workers know they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and offer support. They will not share Mia’s name or personal information. This information is confidential and will remain private. This process is known as contact tracing. 

This sample scenario, available in English and Spanish, takes you through the steps of contact tracing when someone has a positive test for COVID-19.

What is the COVID-19 Community Team?

What is the COVID-19 Community Team?

To slow the spread of COVID-19 in North Carolina, NCDHHS is partnering with and building on the work of local health departments and increasing the number of contact tracers. These statewide contact tracers are the COVID-19 Community Team, which is made up of trained local health department staff and Community Team members who are serving as contact tracers across the state.   

The Community Team reaches out to people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who have been near someone with COVID-19 and connects them with needed supports.  

People should be sure to answer the call when the COVID-19 Community Team reaches out. They will get a text message from the number 45394 or email from NC-ARIAS-NoReply@dhhs.nc.gov with further instructions. If the Team reaches out with a phone call, either NC OUTREACH or the local health department number will appear on their phone. The Team represents communities across North Carolina and will be available to provide support and information in multiple languages.

 

If I test positive for COVID-19, what happens next with contact tracing?

If I test positive for COVID-19, what happens next with contact tracing?

If someone tests positive for COVID-19, a member of the COVID-19 Community Team will reach out to them to make sure they have the resources and support that they may need while staying at home. Staying at home and avoiding contact with other members of the household can help minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 and protect loved ones and neighbors. 

The Community Team will ask the person who tested positive about anyone else they have recently been near or in close contact with. This will allow the Community Team to reach people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and share any information and support they may need to stay at home until the risk of giving the virus to others has passed. The team will not share anyone’s name or personal information. This information is confidential and will remain private. Each of these steps slows the spread of COVID-19. 
 

How does contact tracing work if I came in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19?

How does contact tracing work if I came in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19?

The COVID-19 Community Team will call or send a text or email to people who have come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. The Community Team then shares information and support to protect them and their loved ones and to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Resources may include helping people understand what exposure means, how to keep their family safe while staying at home, how to check symptoms or get tested, and connecting people to supports. 

If I was within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes but one or both of us was wearing a cloth face covering, is this still considered being in close contact?

If I was within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes but one or both of us was wearing a cloth face covering, is this still considered being in close contact?

Yes. If you properly use a cloth face covering, it can help limit the spread of COVID-19, but it does not guarantee it will protect someone from the virus. It is still possible to spread COVID-19 even when someone is wearing a cloth face covering, especially if they are wearing it incorrectly.

This is why a wearing cloth face covering, while a very important step everyone should take when leaving their home, is only one component of the 3Ws of prevention: Wear. Wait. Wash. When leaving home everyone should be sure to wear a face covering, keep six feet apart, and wash their hands often.

 

Why is contact tracing important?

Why is contact tracing important?

Contact tracing helps slow the spread of COVID-19. By letting people know when they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and identifying the other people they may have been near, local health departments and the COVID-19 Community Team can connect everyone with free support and tools to monitor symptoms and slow the spread of the virus. These efforts will help ensure that North Carolina continues responsibly easing current restrictions, while protecting ourselves and our loved ones. 

How will I know if I’m receiving a legitimate call, text, or email and not spam?

How will I know if I’m receiving a legitimate call, text, or email and not spam?

Any text messages from the COVID-19 Community Team will come from the number 45394. Emails will come from the email address NC-ARIAS-NoReply@dhhs.nc.gov. If the Team reaches out with a phone call, either NC OUTREACH or the local health department number will appear on their phone.

The COVID-19 Community Team will never ask for anyone’s Social Security Number, bank or credit card numbers, or any other financial information at any time. If you are asked for this information, please hang up and call your local health department to report the incident.

Any information shared with the COVID-19 Community Team is a private health record and is strictly confidential.

How is contact tracing a part of North Carolina’s plans to continue responsibly easing restrictions?

How is contact tracing a part of North Carolina’s plans to continue responsibly easing restrictions?

Increased testing and extensive contact tracing are key to helping slow the spread of COVID-19 in North Carolina so that we can safely return to gatherings with family and friends, sporting events, and other activities and events outside of our homes.

Through contact tracing, people who have recently come in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 will get a text message, email notification, or phone call, along with information and support to help minimize the risk of spreading the virus further.

How many contact tracers are currently working in North Carolina?

How many contact tracers are currently working in North Carolina?

For an up-to-date number of contact tracers, visit the NC COVID-19 Dashboard: covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard/contact-tracing

Contact tracing builds on the efforts of local health departments, Community Care of North Carolina, and others to expand contact tracing. As the contact tracing program expands, NCDHHS is working with local health department employees, Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative (through Community Care of North Carolina), hospitals, and other community partners.

The Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative is hiring contact tracers to slow the spread of COVID-19. These contact tracers represent the communities they serve. The team will add more staff as needed to support North Carolina.

Are there particular areas of the state where there are more contact tracers working than other areas?

Are there particular areas of the state where there are more contact tracers working than other areas?

Anyone who has either tested positive for COVID-19 or who has come into contact with someone with COVID-19 should be connected to a COVID-19 Community Team member - no matter where they live.

Some communities will require more Community Team members due to higher numbers of people who have tested positive for COVID-19. NCDHHS is evaluating the need on a regular basis and is working with the Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative and local health departments to send trained contact tracing staff to areas where they are needed most. 

How do I know if I’ve been near someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?

How do I know if I’ve been near someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?

In some instances, people may not know if they have come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. The local health department or another member of the COVID-19 Community Team will reach out if:

  • someone has tested positive for COVID-19; or
  • someone has been in close contact (within 6 feet, for at least 15 minutes) with a person who tested positive for COVID-19.

These staff ensure everyone will have the information they may need and help connect people to local resources. They will also ask about people they may have recently been near.

 

What should I do if I have come in contact with someone with COVID-19?

What should I do if I have come in contact with someone with COVID-19?

Please get tested. If someone thinks that they have come in contact with a person who has COVID-19, they should get tested even if they aren’t experiencing symptoms.

If a person needs a test, they can get one by calling their doctor or clinician, local health department, or find a nearby testing location at the Find My Testing Place website. Find My Testing Place will provide a list of nearby testing locations. NCDHHS encourages people to call the test site before they go to learn about testing criteria, availability, hours, and location.   

If the COVID-19 Community Team calls me, what will they ask?

If the COVID-19 Community Team calls me, what will they ask?

If a person has come in contact with someone with COVID-19:  
The COVID-19 Community Team will send a text message or email or will call to let them know. The Team will ask how they are feeling and give them information and support to help slow the spread of the virus and protect their loved ones.

If a person has tested positive for COVID-19:  
A member of the COVID-19 Community Team will call them to provide support they may need to protect themselves and their family. Then, the Community Team will help identify others who were in contact with that person and reach out to them to make sure they know -- and that the Community Team is here to help them. The Team will NOT share any names or personal information. Any information shared during the call is a private health record and is strictly confidential.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

It’s possible for someone to have COVID-19 and not have any symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Learn more about symptoms.  

What type of technology does the COVID-19 Community Team use to track contacts and collect information?

What type of technology does the COVID-19 Community Team use to track contacts and collect information?

In addition to local health department resources, the COVID-19 Community Team uses software called the COVID-19 Community Team Outreach Tool in their contact tracing efforts. This tool helps the Community Team identify and reach out to people that may have come in contact with a person who has COVID-19. This tool is secure and keeps personal information private and confidential. 

What information is collected through the COVID-19 Community Team Outreach Tool?

What information is collected through the COVID-19 Community Team Outreach Tool?

If a person has come in contact with someone with COVID-19:  
The COVID-19 Community Team Outreach Tool will help a person monitor and keep track of their symptoms.   

If a person has tested positive for COVID-19:  
The COVID-19 Community Team Outreach Tool will help Team members reach out to anyone that person has been in close contact with.

 

Will my information be kept confidential?

Will my information be kept confidential?

All information is confidential, and personal information or names will not be released to anyone. Any information that is shared with the COVID-19 Community Team is a private health record and is strictly confidential. Personal information will not be shared with other government agencies, and the names of individuals and contacts will not be released or shared.

The Community Team will work to connect anyone who needs additional help as they monitor their symptoms or stay at home with the resources they need. Their name might be shared in this case, with their permission.

The Community Team will never ask for someone’s Social Security Number, bank or credit card numbers, or any other financial information. If you are asked for this information, please hang up and call your local health department to report the incident.

If everything is private, how did you get my name and know that I may have been exposed?

If everything is private, how did you get my name and know that I may have been exposed?

When someone has tested positive for COVID-19, a member of the COVID-19 Community Team will work with that person to help identify others they may have been in contact with. The Community Team will then reach out to those people (those who may have been in contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19) to provide information and support. Throughout this process, all information and names are confidential and remain private.

What if miss a call from COVID-19 Community Team? Will they leave a voicemail?

What if miss a call from COVID-19 Community Team? Will they leave a voicemail?

Yes, if a member of the COVID-19 Community Team calls and can’t get you on the phone, they will leave a voicemail. To protect your privacy, the voicemail will not say that the call is about a COVID-19. You will know it is a member of the Community Team calling because they will always do the following when leaving a voicemail:

  • Identify themselves with their first name and the local health department they are calling from.
  • Say “We are contacting you about an urgent public health matter. We would like to speak with you to provide further information and share guidance.”
  • Request that you call your local health department at your earliest convenience and will tell you the local health department phone number.
  • Tell you the local health department website in case you would like go to the website to verify the phone number.

 

Additionally, if you are ever in doubt about how to contact your local health department, please use this website for local health department contact information.

What if I don’t have access to email or a cellphone?

What if I don’t have access to email or a cellphone?

If someone cannot be reached by email, text or phone, the Community Team will follow up with in-person visits, using Personal Protective Equipment, such as face masks and gloves, to ensure it is a safe interaction.

What if I don’t speak English?

What if I don’t speak English?

The COVID-19 Community Team will work to make sure that anyone, regardless of the language they speak, will get the support and information they need.

Do I have to respond if someone from the COVID-19 Community Team contacts me?

Do I have to respond if someone from the COVID-19 Community Team contacts me?

No, but contact tracing only works if everyone does their part and responds. The COVID-19 Community Team will make multiple attempts to reach anyone who doesn’t or is unable to respond.

People who have come in contact with someone with COVID-19 may not show any symptoms and don’t realize that they may be spreading the virus. Answering the phone when the COVID-19 Community Team calls, or responding to their text message or email, and providing information helps protect loved ones.

Are COVID-19 Community Team contact tracers state employees?

Are COVID-19 Community Team contact tracers state employees?

No. NCDHHS partners with local health department employees and contractors through the Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative (by Community Care of North Carolina and Child Care Health Consultants) to support COVID-19 contact tracing. 

Are the COVID-19 Community Team contact tracers permanent positions?

Are the COVID-19 Community Team contact tracers permanent positions?

No. New COVID-19 Community Team contact tracers hired through the Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative are specifically working to help slow the spread of the virus across the state. These are not permanent positions.