The Georgia Department of Public Health is expanding contact tracing for COVID-19 statewide beginning May 12, according to a news release from the GDPH. Contact tracing is used to identify and mitigate hot spots of infection to help prevent further spread of the virus, the news release said.

Here is how contact tracing works, according to the news release:

  • Once a COVID-19 case is identified, public health staff work with that individual to help them recall everyone they have had close contact with and where they went while they may have been infectious.

  • Contacts identified during the interview will be called by trained GDPH staff indicating that they have been exposed to COVID-19, asking them to enroll in GDPH symptom monitoring and informing them that they must self-quarantine for 14 days after the exposure.

About 250 contact tracers are deployed throughout the state. To date, more than 3,800 individuals testing positive for COVID-19 have been contacted and nearly 13,000 contacts identified.

The department's goal, according to the release, is to have more than 1,000 contact tracers within the coming weeks. To do this, the department has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foundation to add a deployment coordinator and a training and learning coordinator to the GDPH's COVID-19 response team to help oversee the training and deployment of additional contact tracers as well as coordinating with other public health districts, the release said. Training is already underway for 200 new contact tracers and 70 medical students and masters of public health candidates who joined the GDPH in the last two weeks.

In addition, the GDPH introduced a new online monitoring tool to make contact tracing more efficient, the release said. The new, web-based portal allows identified contacts to answer questions about their health and symptoms related to COVID-19. Should the individual report symptoms, the system will prompt the person to call 911 if they are in a medical emergency, to consult with their health care provider if they are sick and need medical care, or to schedule COVID-19 testing if the individual reported mild symptoms and does not need medical care, according to the release.

"Contact tracing in Georgia is 100% confidential—the identity of the person who tests positive and the information on those who might have been exposed will not be shared," the release said.