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Contact tracing is a common public health tool that is used to stop the spread of diseases. For many years, it has helped prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted infections. Now, Lancaster General Health is working with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the City and County of Lancaster to slow the spread of COVID-19 using contact tracing.

What is Contact Tracing?

  • First, a nurse calls people who have tested positive for COVID-19. The nurse will ask the person about anyone they have been in close contact with while they were infectious (or able to spread the virus to others).
  • With the help of the nurse, the person with COVID-19 reflects back on their activities and provides the names and phone numbers of people who were in close contact with them.
  • Next, a contact tracer calls the close contacts. The contact tracer tells the contacts that they were exposed to the virus, asks how they are feeling, and gives them instructions to quarantine (stay home and away from others) so that they will not accidentally spread the virus to others. To protect patient privacy, close contacts are not told the identity of the patient who may have exposed them.
  • Both patients and contacts are encouraged to enroll in Sara Alert and receive automatic texts, phone calls, or emails daily to check their symptoms and notify our nursing team if they start feeling sick.

If You Receive a Call

Contact tracing is reaching out to anyone who came into direct contact with an individual who tested presumptive positive with COVID-19 to see if they have developed symptoms and if they need to be tested.

Our contact tracers will introduce themselves by name, and they will tell you they are calling on behalf of the City and County of Lancaster and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

  • They may ask you to confirm your birthdate, your address, or another piece of information to check your identity.
  • They will not ask you for your social security number or any financial information.
  • They will ask you about how you are feeling, the people you have been in close contact with (if you have COVID-19), and about any concerns you may have about being in quarantine or isolation, such as paying for food or housing.
  • They will explain how Sara Alert works, and offer you the option to enroll with your phone number or email address.
  • If you need help with medical care, mental health resources, or social services, our staff will be able to provide advice and resources.

About Sara Alert

Sara Alert is a tool that allows public health officials to enroll individuals who are at risk of developing COVID-19 and enables individuals to enter their symptoms daily. A team of health professionals can review the symptom reports and help connect individuals with medical care if needed. Sara Alert offers multiple access methods including web, text, email, and phone calls.

For more about Sara Alert, visit the FAQ page.

For more information

You can read more about contact tracing at the Pennsylvania Department of Health website.

If you would like to confirm the identify of a contact tracer, call us at 717-544-9505.