Contact tracing is an important step in slowing the spread of COVID-19. It’s when health workers notify you that you’ve been in close contact with an infected person. They will tell you how to quarantine or isolate and get tested. Public health departments have used contact tracing for decades to fight infectious disease. 

Introducing California Connected, our state’s contact tracing program.

Connected California

Under this program, health workers will talk to those who have tested positive. They’ll alert anyone they may have exposed, keeping names confidential. They’ll:

  • check symptoms
  • offer testing
  • discuss next steps like quarantine, self-isolation, and medical care.

By finding spread patterns quickly, we slow infection and help avoid outbreaks. This lets California keep healthcare needs below capacity and safely reopen businesses.

All you have to do is answer a phone call

Contact tracing is an anonymous way to do your part. The more people answer the call, the more lives and jobs California saves. Your information is always kept confidential.

Early awareness helps you protect your friends and loved ones from exposure. And early medical care can improve your outcome.

The sooner we can reach you, the sooner you can get advice, testing, and support.

How does contact tracing work?

California Connected: Keeping Our Families and Communities Healthy.
Contact tracing is a simple, confidential process that has been used by public health departments for decades to slow the spread of infectious disease and avoid outbreaks. The more people who answer the call, the more lives and jobs California saves.
How does contact tracing work? If you test positive for COVID-19: Separate yourself from those in your home and avoid contact with others to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Your local health department will contact you.
They will connect you to medical care and help you find resources and support if needed. They may stay in touch with you to see if you're okay.
They will ask about places you have been and the people you have spent time with recently. Your information is confidential and will not be shared, and you will not be asked about your immigration status.
Those people will be told they may have been exposed, but they will NOT be told your name or any personal information.
If you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19:
You will receive a call from a public health worker who will help you understand the next steps.
They will provide access at no cost to you and medical care, if needed. You will also be asked to separate yourself from others in your home to protect those around you. They will stay in touch to see if you develop symptoms or need access to help.
To learn more, visit Californiaconnected.ca.gov

Download How Does Contact Tracing Work? (PDF)

If you test positive for COVID-19:

  • You will get medical care, regardless of income, health insurance, or immigration status.
  • You will get advice on how to separate yourself from others to avoid spreading the disease. 
  • You will be asked basic questions like your name and age, the places you’ve been, and the people you’ve spent time with.
  • Those people will be contacted and told they may have been exposed to COVID-19. They will be offered testing and medical care.
  • Your personal information is confidential and will not be shared. They will not ask about your immigration status.

If you are exposed to COVID-19:

  • You’ll get a call, text or email from your local public health department to inform you of this exposure.
  • They will not share information about who may have exposed you. This information is confidential.  
  • You’ll get free, confidential testing, regardless of income, health insurance, or immigration status.
  • They will help you understand your infection risk. They’ll tell you what to do immediately to prevent further spread.
  • They will stay in touch to see if you develop symptoms.
  • If you have symptoms, they will get you tested quickly. You will get resources to self-isolate.
  • They may ask questions about the places you’ve been and the people you’ve spent time with.
  • Your personal information is confidential and will not be shared. They will not ask about your immigration status.

Information you provide to a contact tracer is confidential

Your identity and health information is always kept private. It will not be shared with anyone who may have been exposed. No one will ask about your immigration status during testing, care or follow-up calls. You will never be asked for your Social Security number or payment information.

California’s strict privacy laws protect all your information. California Connected maintains data with strict privacy and security standards. The data is only collected and stored for use by local and state public health departments.

Read the Privacy Policy at the CDPH California Connected web page.

Tips to protect others around you

If you have COVID-19 or test positive for coronavirus, isolate yourself from others. Try to stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. Disinfect frequently-touched surfaces, or have your caregiver do so. 

People you live with are close contacts. They should quarantine and get tested.

Support if you test positive or are in isolation or quarantine

Your local public health department can connect you to 

  • testing
  • medical care
  • housing if you need it to self-isolate.

If you work, your employer may be required to provide you with paid sick leave and other benefits. Read more in the Employer Playbook for a Safe Reopening (PDF).

If you are anxious, stressed or scared, you are not alone. Pandemics can be stressful. Fear and anxiety about a new disease and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions. Coping with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger. See this CDC video about managing anxiety and stress.

If you feel like you need to talk to someone and want emotional support, see this list of resources.  The California Surgeon General released two playbooks for managing stress and tips for caregivers and kids.

If you need childcare, visit MyChildCare.ca.gov to find licensed childcare near you. Subsidies may be available. Check your local childcare resource and referral agency to see if you qualify.

If you’re an immigrant, you can find help in the Guide for Immigrant Californians (PDF).

Virtual assistant symptom check-in service

California Connected and local public health departments offer a COVID-19 symptom check-in service. This virtual assistant provides confidential and safe check-ins through text messages. Your local public health department will send answers to care-related questions, provide resources, and check in on your symptoms. All information is protected and is only used for public health purposes. Read the virtual assistant service legal policies.

California COVID Notify exposure notification

California COVID Notify is a pilot project at UCSD and UCSF to test Google and Apple’s Exposure Notification Express mobile system. It detects if participants were near someone with COVID-19 through anonymous keys exchanged with their phones via Bluetooth. This pilot will only be open to students and employees at these universities.

The pilot was launched in late September and is expected to last about one month. California will review the results and decide whether to make the technology available statewide. Only people who opt in will participate in the notification system.

Questions and answers

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