Contact tracing includes public health tools known as isolation and quarantine, which differ from one another. Isolation is used for individuals who have been infected with COVID-19, even if they don’t have symptoms. Quarantine is used for individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19 through close contact.
Isolation is separating people who have COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19 from those who are not infected or showing symptoms in order to prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. You isolate when you show symptoms of COVID-19 or are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, even if you don’t have symptoms.
Quarantine is used by someone who has been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 through close contact, but has not tested positive for COVID-19 and does not have symptoms. Quarantine is important because even before a person has tested positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms, they could spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to other people without knowing. Quarantine is used to prevent transmission of the virus by ensuring that people who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 stay apart from others.
While contact tracing can be effective at certain times and/or in certain settings, when levels of community transmission are significant, its effectiveness as a mitigation tool decreases.
Montgomery County Public Health Services follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) contact tracing guidance during times of high burden, which calls for prioritizing case investigations to focus on those who tested positive most recently. Contact elicitation and notification focus on household contacts and sensitive settings. Taken together, this means you may not get a call from a county or state contact tracer. Instead, take the actions described below, depending on your particular circumstance.
You do not need to quarantine, but you should wear a mask around others for 10 days. You should also get tested on day 5, if possible. Day 1 is the day after your last day of exposure to the COVID-19 positive person.
If you develop symptoms, get a test, go home, and follow the instructions earlier in this webpage in the section “If you are experiencing one or more symptoms of COVID-19, follow these steps and get tested for COVID-19”..