As Massachusetts enters the first phase of its reopening plan, it also enters a new phase in the fight against COVID-19. To better understand where the virus is spreading – and to quell outbreaks before they occur – the state is working with local boards of health to launch a contact tracing program.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, contact tracing is a process by which trained public health workers will contact patients with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection and help them recall all the people they have encountered since they may have become infectious.
The staffers will then warn those people who may have been exposed.
The process is handled with patient confidentiality in mind. The contacts are only told that they may have been exposed to the virus, and they will not receive the name of the person who may have initially exposed them.
In Massachusetts, the process will be handled by the Community Tracing Collaborative, which was created by Governor Charlie Baker. Everyone who has tested positive will receive a call from the MA COVID Team. The team will ask questions about the person’s recent contacts and follow up with those individuals, encouraging them to get tested and to self-quarantine to avoid potentially spreading the virus further.
If the MA COVID Team contacts you, the call will come from one of two area codes: 833 or 857. Your caller ID may say the call is from the “MA COVID Team.”
Calls will be made daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The MA COVID Team will not ask for social security information or health insurance information. During the phone call, a Case Investigator will ask you for a list of all the people and places you were within 6 feet of during the 48 hours prior to your symptoms. For those who do not have symptoms, include all contacts 48 hours prior to your diagnosis. The Case Investigator will also ask for the phone numbers of any people you identify so that they can be reached and notified about their exposure.
While the team may encourage you to inform your contacts about your illness, the state will not share your information. The MA COVID Team will call your contacts and tell them they have been exposed to COVID-19, but will not release your name. Likewise, the state will not share any information with immigration officials or ICE.
A Case Investigator will check in on you regularly to monitor your symptoms and needs.