Gloria Addo-Ayensu, M.D., M.P.H.,
Director of Health
A contact investigation is a routine public health practice to limit the spread of a disease within the community. Contact investigations have been conducted for decades for communicable (infectious) diseases, for example tuberculosis (TB), sexually transmitted infections, measles, and now the new coronavirus, COVID-19.
These investigations are made up of two fundamental activities:
Contact investigations are conducted by well-trained staff. They may be public health or health care professionals, health educators/outreach workers, and even community members who have certain skills and proper training. Training is important because case investigations and contact tracing must be done quickly and with knowledge and skills in areas such as patient confidentiality, effective communication, cultural sensitivity, and complex health topics.
The Health Department has been conducting contact investigations since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. Contact tracing, testing, and staying home and away from others when sick or after contact with someone who is sick, are critical steps to the “box it in” strategy and keeping disease low in our community.
Investigations are conducted both for individuals within the community and in high-risk settings, such as long-term care facilities or other congregate settings.
The Health Department has a team of trained public health personnel dedicated to case investigations and contact tracing. We are expanding our contact tracing efforts to protect the health of the Fairfax community and hiring up to 400 additional staff to do this work as well as using new systems to be more effective.
A case investigation begins when we learn about someone who is either confirmed or diagnosed by their healthcare provider to have COVID-19. The Health Department typically learns about cases from a positive lab report from someone who has been tested for COVID-19. We then conduct an interview and then reach out to close contacts to let them know that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.
Community health workers will also be assisting with contact tracing efforts and will be available to provide culturally competent support and referrals to resources for individuals and families who need to self-isolate or self-quarantine. These workers are trained and trusted community members with a close understanding of our neighborhoods and populations in the county that may need additional support.
If you are identified as someone who has COVID-19 or exposed to someone who does, a Health Department staff member will contact you. It is important to answer the phone, listen to the voicemail, and/or return the call if asked to do so.
A representative from the Health Department, called a case investigator, will contact you to:
A representative from the Health Department, called a contact tracer, will contact you to:
If you have COVID-19 or were exposed to it, you will be asked to complete wellness checks. To do this, we are using Sara AlertTM, a secure messaging service that sends a daily email or text message to you so you can report your symptoms. If you don’t have a mobile device or access to email, you can receive a phone call from a representative of the Health Department.
Sara AlertTM messages will always be from the same phone number, 844-957-2721. If you choose to receive emails, they will be sent from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara AlertTM will only ask you to report your symptoms. You do not need to download anything to your phone or computer. Sara AlertTM will not ask for any additional information like banking information or social security information.
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has released COVIDWISE, the official Virginia Exposure Notifications System app created in partnership with Google and Apple. This is a free, voluntary smartphone app that is available to all Virginians.
COVIDWISE will notify you if you’ve likely been exposed to another app user who shared a positive COVID-19 test result. Knowing your exposure history allows you to self-quarantine effectively, seek timely medical attention, and reduce potential exposure risk to your family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
Every user decides whether or not to opt-in to receive Exposure Notifications, and if a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, it is up to them whether or not they share their result through COVIDWISE. No location data or personal information is ever collected, stored or transmitted to VDH. You can delete the app or turn off Exposure Notifications at any time.
Learn more about how it works and see the FAQs at www.vdh.virginia.gov/covidwise.
We understand for some people it may be uncomfortable to have a government office call you. Some may also be worried about whether the call is trustworthy or if it is part of a scam. We ask that you recognize these calls are being made to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to help keep our community healthy.
You can help protect yourself, your family, and the Fairfax community by simply talking with us when we call and by following guidance for how long to stay home and away from others. Guidance may include:
|If you have COVID-19||If You Were in Contact with Someone with COVID-19|
Find out how long to isolate or quarantine: Website | Flier
Know the symptoms of COVID-19
Get the latest testing information
Find Support at Coordinated Services Planning or 703-222-0880
Get tips for Households Living in Close Quarters or for those Living in Shared Housing
Washington Post: Why Contact Tracing is Vital to Fighting Coronavirus
12000 Government Center Pkwy
Fairfax, VA 22035