Health Department

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Our administration office at 10777 Main Street in Fairfax is open during regular business hours 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday. Clinic services are not offered at this location.

703-267-3511
TTY 711

10777 Main Street
Fairfax, VA 22030

Gloria Addo-Ayensu, M.D., M.P.H.,
Director of Health

Contact Investigations

Overview

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:

  • Case Investigation: the identification and investigation of a person with either a confirmed or probable diagnosis
  • Contact Tracing: the identification of persons who have been exposed to a case and are possibly infected

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.

Contact Investigations and COVID-19

Contact investigation is an important part of our approach to protecting the health of the Fairfax community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Health Department conducts contact investigations both for individuals within the community and in high-risk settings, such as long-term care facilities or other congregate settings. We have been conducting contact investigations since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.

A case investigation begins when we learn about someone who is either confirmed to have COVID-19 or who we think may be infected. The Health Department typically learns about cases from a positive lab report from someone who tested positive for COVID-19. We then interview that person to find out where they have been recently and who they were in close contact with. Close contacts are those who have been within six feet of a sick individual for more than ten minutes from 48 hours before the illness began through the time they were sick. The individual is also provided with instructions about informing their own close contacts so that the contacts can self-quarantine and break the chain of transmission and contain the spread of the infection.

Contact tracers reach out to contacts of sick individuals to let them know that they may have been exposed to COVID-19. They provide guidance about what the contact should do, such as staying separate from others (self-quarantine) for 14 days, and how to monitor for symptoms or when to call a health care provider.

The Health Department has a team of trained public health personnel dedicated to case investigations and contact tracing. There are two dedicated call centers with about 75 people who are conducing contact investigations daily. Each day, hundreds of calls are made to every identified COVID-19 case in the County as part of this process. As our community transitions back to work, school and civic life, the ability to conduct contact tracing on a large scale will be vital to protecting the health of the Fairfax community. To meet the need for large scale contact tracing efforts, the Health Department is augmenting the existing workforce.

What to Expect if the Health Department Calls You

If you are identified as a contact and someone conducting contact tracing for the Health Department calls you, it is important to answer the phone, listen to the voicemail, and/or return the call if asked to do so. They will ask you questions and the provide guidance about how to take care of yourself and prevent others from getting sick.

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 will never be asked for your social security number, financial or bank account information, passwords, or other personal information unrelated to COVID-19. We will not ask for photographs or videos of any kind. 

How You Can Help

Given the increased volume of COVID-19 cases, we need your help. We ask if you are sick with COVID-19 to proactively reach out to your close contacts and let them know that you are sick. This includes people who have had the illness confirmed with a laboratory test and those who have COVID-19 symptoms and have been in close contact with a current patient. If you reach out to your own contacts, you are helping to more quickly stop the spread of disease and amplify our ongoing work in contact investigations.

Learn more about how to identify and talk to your close contacts about COVID-19 is in this toolkit. 

Finally, you can apply to be a contact tracer (see information at the top of the page).

Fairfax Virtual Assistant