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July 20, 2020

Contact tracing is a tool public health uses to stop the spread of diseases. The answers you give when a public health worker calls help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Until there is a vaccine or a cure, contact tracing is the best way to keep people healthy. 

How contact tracing works

No matter where someone is tested, a positive test for COVID-19 is reported to the health department. We call the person who tested positive to find out how they are doing, who they have been near, and where they might have been exposed to the virus.

Who will call me?

Our team members:

  • Will identify themselves as working with the Multnomah County Health Department
  • Will speak your home language and, if they don’t, will work with an interpreter
  • Will call you back if you’re not free to talk at this moment

You might feel some emotions if you get a call from one of our team members. Your emotions are normal and okay. We make sure you understand what the results mean. We make sure you know how to find health care and protect the people around you. The information you share with us is confidential and protected.

What questions will you ask?

  • We ask how you are feeling and if you need health care.
  • We ask where you went and who you had close contact with in the last few weeks. 
  • We ask about your health, housing, and employment. 
  • We ask you if you have what you need to stay safe and recover. We can help you come up with a plan to get what you need.
  • We never ask for Social Security numbers, bank information, or credit cards. 
  • We never ask about immigration status. 
  • We do not share your identity with the federal government. 
  • We do not share information with law enforcement or ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).
  • We do not share information with your landlord.

All participation is voluntary. You can decline to answer any question. If you choose, you can notify your own contacts instead of sharing their names with the health department. We strongly encourage you to let us also talk to them to make sure they get all of their questions answered.

If you suspect fraud, hang up the phone. You can call the Communicable Disease Services main line at 503.988.3406 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Ask to speak to the phone triage person. That person can confirm that the person calling you is from the Health Department. 

If we are unable to reach you, we will leave a voicemail identifying ourselves as calling from the Health Department and will request that you call back. The voicemail will not contain any health information.

What do you do with my answers?

The information you give helps us stop the disease from spreading.

We use it to find and contact people who are at risk of getting COVID-19, so they can take steps to protect the people around them. We keep your information private. We do not tell people who may have exposed them unless we have your permission. Sometimes we need to notify places you have been while infectious, such as a workplace. We will work with you to do this safely and privately.

What will you ask my contacts to do?

We ask people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 to stay home, away from other people, for two weeks after the last time they were exposed. 

  • We can help people come up with a plan to get groceries and other resources so they can stay home safely.

  • We ask contacts to stay home, but we do not punish or report them if they don’t stay home.

  • Staying home the whole time is important because people can spread COVID-19 before they know they are sick. 

  • We make sure people have a plan for seeking medical care if they develop symptoms.

Please answer when we call. We need your help to stop COVID-19.