Contact-Tracing-QA Contact Tracing Q&A

Contact Tracing Q&A

What is a close contact?

A close contact is someone who was within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period, starting from 2 days before symptoms appeared (or, for someone who tested positive for COVID-19 but does not have symptoms, 2 days prior to their positive test) until the time the infected person is isolated.

You are also a close contact if:

  • You provided care at the home of someone who has COVID-19.

  • You had direct physical contact with someone who has COVID-19 (such as hugging or kissing them) or you shared eating or drinking utensils with them.

  • A person who has COVID-19 sneezed, coughed, or somehow got respiratory droplets on you.

Am I considered a close contact if I was wearing a mask?

Yes, you are still considered a close contact even if you were wearing a mask while you were around someone with COVID-19. Studies suggest masks can offer good protection to the wearer, as well as help to protect other people in case you are infected, but they are not 100% sure to stop you from getting the virus or spreading it to others.

Will contact tracers track my location?

No, California's contact tracing program does not use any cell phone tracking technology. Laboratories who identify positive cases are required to provide contact information to Public Health. Someone from your local public health department will speak privately with you. All information is confidential and protected by California's strict privacy laws. They may stay in touch to make sure your symptoms aren't getting worse.

How can I participate in CA Notify, the COVID-19 exposure notification system developed by Apple and Google?

You can activate CA Notify, California's exposure notification system, by enabling notifications in your iPhone's settings or downloading CA Notify onto your Android phone. Your privacy is protected:  this system does not track your personal information or your location. You will receive an alert if you were near another CA Notify user who tests positive for COVID-19, and you can click on links to get information on how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe if you have been exposed. For details, see the CA Notify website or call 888-421-9457 (888-4C19-HLP).

Is contact tracing help available in my language? 

Your local health department can communicate with you in many different languages.

How do I find a coronavirus testing location?

Visit the Testing page. You can search for testing locations there using your zip code. Your local health department website may have additional testing sites listed.

What if I have COVID-19 symptoms and have not been contacted by the health department?

Get tested immediately. Isolate yourself while waiting for your test result, in case you are infected and can spread the virus to others. If your test result is positive, remain in self-isolation until:

  • at least 10 days have passed since symptoms started, AND

  • you have had no fever for at least 24 hours, without taking any fever-reducing medicine, AND

  • your symptoms (like cough and shortness of breath) have improved.

If your test results are negative, you may still have COVID-19 and should continue self-isolating.  Contact your medical provider to discuss your symptoms, especially if they worsen, and to get advice on when to do follow-up testing and how long to isolate.

What if I came in contact with someone who has COVID-19 symptoms or tested positive, but my local health department is not aware of it?

You should get tested when you learn you have been exposed to COVID-19. Quarantine yourself while waiting for your test results and contact your local health department for contact tracing and quarantine support. If you test negative and continue to have no symptoms, you should remain in self-quarantine but should test again 5-7 days after your last exposure.

You do not have to quarantine or get tested even after close contact, if at least one of these is true:

  • You recovered from COVID-19 within the past 3 months and have had no new symptoms since your recent exposure. 

  • You were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before your recent exposure and have had no symptoms. Exception: if you live or work in a healthcare setting or certain other shared living or high density workplace settings (like a dormitory, homeless shelter, correctional facility, or food processing plant), you may need to get tested.  Follow your local health department or workplace guidelines.

If you tested positive but have no symptoms, you should isolate at home for at least 10 days after the date of your test.

If you develop symptoms, you should stay home until:

  • at least 10 days have passed since symptoms started, AND
  • you have had no fever for at least 24 hours, without taking any fever-reducing medicine, AND 
  • your symptoms (like cough and shortness of breath) have improved

If you have symptoms after being exposed to COVID-19, you should isolate whether you have tested positive or negative, have not tested, are fully vaccinated, or had COVID-19 before.  If you tested negative, contact your medical provider to discuss your symptoms, especially if they worsen, and to get advice on when to do follow-up testing and how long to isolate.

What if I had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 but I tested negative?

You should still quarantine at home for 10 days. If you live or work in a healthcare setting, follow your local health department or workplace guidelines.

  • Close contacts who have never had any symptoms may discontinue quarantine after Day 10 from the date of last exposure without testing.

  • Close contacts who were fully vaccinated when exposed, or who tested positive for COVID-19 within the 3 months before their recent exposure, do not have to quarantine if they have not had any new symptoms since the recent exposure. They should monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days following their last exposure to COVID-19.

  • If you are released from quarantine before Day 14 after exposure, you must:

    • Monitor yourself daily for COVID-19 symptoms through Day 14.  If symptoms occur, immediately self-isolate, get tested, and contact your medical provider to discuss your symptoms, especially if they worsen.

    • Wear a mask around others, continue to wash your hands frequently, and stay at least 6 feet from others through Day 14.

How is the state supporting schools with contact tracing?

Contact tracing in schools is driven by local policies and conducted in collaboration with each school's local health department (LHD).  Local public health departments will be the primary point of contact for schools to obtain more information about local contact tracing requirements and resources. 

CDPH is supporting LHDs in their efforts to support their local schools as they reopen through:

  • Training for LHD staff to enhance their school collaborations  

  • Training state employees as school specialists to expand local capacity, by triaging school-related requests, managing data, and assisting with contact tracing

  • Providing technical support to assist LHDs in managing school-affiliated COVID-19 exposures and outbreaks

The California Safe Schools For All Hub has additional resources and information related to COVID-19 and schools.

Stay informed