Contact Tracing: Fact vs. Fiction
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, contact tracing has been in the news as a way to stop the spread. But how does it work? And what does it mean for you?
Partners In Health launched the Massachusetts Community Tracing Collaborative (CTC) in partnership with the State of Massachusetts in April 2020. The CTC is a key part of comprehensive efforts to control and end transmission of the novel coronavirus in Massachusetts, and the first large-scale coronavirus contact tracing program in the U.S.
The Department of Public Health and local boards of health continue to lead contact tracing efforts, with ongoing support from the CTC.
We reached out to CTC staff and PIH leaders to clarify some common misconceptions.
MYTH: If I test positive, my identity and those of my contacts will be shared with the public.
FACT: If you test positive, your identity will not be shared with your contacts—they will only be told they may have been exposed in a certain date range.
MYTH: I am an undocumented immigrant and fear that, if I answer the phone, I may be turned in and get deported.
FACT: Your information is strictly confidential and will not be shared with immigration officials or other agencies. Additionally, your identity will not be shared with any contacts you’ve listed.
MYTH: If I answer the call and learn I've been exposed to COVID-19, I will face challenges isolating at home or will be forced from my home.
FACT: Quarantine is a crucial part of stopping the spread of COVID—this includes staying home, maintaining social distance, self-monitoring for symptoms, and notifying public health staff. If you face challenges or concerns around isolating at home, you will be connected with resources in your area, including for housing, food, domestic violence and economic support.
MYTH: Contact tracing doesn’t seem to be making a difference. Positive cases keep rising.
FACT: Without contact tracing, COVID-19 cases will rise further because we can’t track the virus and test, treat, and isolate patients.
MYTH: I don't answer the phone, because I don’t think I speak English that well.
FACT: Language won’t be a barrier. Contact tracers speak several languages and have access to professional translation.
MYTH: I hear contact tracers will require me to download an app that will track my locations and behaviors.
FACT: We do not require you or your contacts to download apps that track your locations or behaviors. We only need you to answer the phone. Contact tracers use digital tools to capture necessary information during phone calls to monitor infected people, trace their contacts and help connect them with care and support.