ORLANDO, Fla. – As coronavirus cases continue to surge throughout Florida, contact tracers are trying to pinpoint where the infections are stemming from and who may have been exposed.
The higher the number of cases climbs, the more intense the workload for contact tracers as they work to get in contact with those who tested positive for COVID-19 and try to learn where they potentially contracted the virus. Their work doesn’t stop there as they collect data to help and notify others that it would be in their best interest to get tested as well. The feat becomes more complicated if those who were exposed to an infected individual crossed county or state lines making contact tracing a more collaborative effort.
A contact tracer could dedicate up to 100 hours on one case, though the average tends to fall between 10-25 hours. This is because beyond asking for your name, age, date of birth, race, ethnicity, contact tracers ask detailed questions that will lead them to investigate other possible connections to a case of coronavirus.
Needless to say, if a contact tracer were to contact you these are some of the questions you should be prepared to answer.
Questions about your whereabouts
You’ll need to retrace your steps and help inform a contact tracer about your whereabouts in the last 14 days. These could be vague questions that are as simple as ‘where did you go yesterday?' to specific information like ‘what bus route do you take Monday afternoons and how many people would you say were on the bus?' Below is a list of commonly asked questions:
- Where were you on [insert date]?
- Where else did you go?
- How did you get there?
- Where do you work?
- When was the last time you were at work?
- Where do you live? Where have you stayed for the past month?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance for contact tracers, these are typically the initial questions but a contact tracer may use your answers to lead into other inquiries. If you feel uncomfortable or unsure of how to answer a question you have the right to not say anything at all.
Questions about your habits
- How often do you leave your house?
- Do you tend to wear a mask?
- Where do you go grocery shopping?
- How often do you go out?
These questions can vary for health care workers and first responders as well as employees in long-term care facilities since their lifestyle may not have as much consistency and their habits could be flexible. It’s not uncommon for contact tracers to ask about hygiene habits as well.
Questions about the people in your life
The CDC provides guidance for contact tracers on how to ask for demographic information and sensitively ask about the people in one’s life. This is to help pinpoint which communities may have been exposed as well. The CDC provides an expansive list of questions but here are a few common ones.
- Who else lives with you or stays at that address?
- Who do you typically see on a daily/weekly basis? (Family, friends, co-workers)
- Do you live with anyone 65 or older?
- How does your workplace protect people from COVID-19 and what do you do?
- How many people have you visited in the last 14 days?
Here’s what they likely won’t ask
A conversation with a contact tracer is a private talk with the intent to gather information in the interest of public health. There are a few personal questions that likely won’t be asked since it may not fit with the mission. Here’s a look at topics that likely won’t be addressed.
- Immigration status
- Social security number or bank information
- If you’ve been part of recent protests, though people can offer that information with other questions mentioned above
- Sexual relations with other individuals (unlike with HIV contact tracing)
It’s important to note that these public health workers are trusting you and your answers. You also have the right to not speak to a contact tracer at all or decline to answer any questions. Just keep in mind if you get a call from a contact tracer, the intent is to help track the spread of coronavirus.