Case investigations and contact tracing are trusted public health tools used to prevent further spread of contagious illnesses, including COVID-19. Laboratories and physicians notify the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) when patients test positive for COVID-19 or are diagnosed with the infection. Public health professionals then reach out to patients who are actively infected to conduct a confidential interview. This is part of the process of supporting patients with COVID-19 and allows VDH to make recommendations to individuals about how to limit the spread of the virus to others in the community. The interview includes helping the patient identify their close contacts during the time they were infectious.
Contact tracing involves public health professionals reaching out to alert individuals (close contacts) about their potential exposure. This is done as rapidly and sensitively as possible. To protect the identity of the patient, contacts are only informed about the exposure. They are not told who the person is who may have exposed them. During the interview, the public health professional provides information about COVID-19, symptoms to watch for and how to monitor for them, testing, the importance of quarantine, and supportive services that are available. Close contacts of actively infected COVID-19 patients are asked to self-quarantine; the duration is based on when the person was last exposed to the infectious patient.
VDH has been working hard to conduct case investigations and contact tracing since the beginning of the COVID-19 response. VDH is providing these indicators to describe the status of this work:
Percent of Cases Reached Within 24 Hours, 7 Day Average
This measure is the average percent of cases, in the preceding 7 days, that were contacted within 24 hours of the local health district receiving the case report.
Local health districts strive to contact 100% of cases within 24 hours of receiving notification of the case. Obstacles that prevent this from occurring include incorrect contact information provided to the health department, people not responding, and the volume of reports received in a given day.
Number of Contacts Under Public Health Monitoring
Contacts are only counted in this group while they are under monitoring; they are removed once their monitoring period has ended.
Of Contacts Able to Reach, Percent Reached Within 24 Hours
Local health districts strive to interview all contacts within 24 hours of public health identifying them as a close contact of a COVID-19 case. Obstacles that prevent this from occurring include incorrect contact information provided to the health department, people not responding, and the volume of reports received in a given day.
Percent of Contacts Unable to Reach to Date
This indicator includes contacts entered into the contact monitoring system but not yet reached at the time of the report (even if it has been less than 24 hours).
Local health districts strive to reach all contacts; however, it isn’t always possible. Obstacles that prevent this from occurring include incorrect contact information provided to the health department and people not responding.
To view Virginia’s contact tracing indicators, visit: VDH COVID-19 Contact Tracing Data.
More information about contact tracing is available on VDH’s COVID-19 website.