Trusted tools in preventing disease

Case investigations and contact tracing are trusted public health tools for preventing the spread of disease. This week, Gov. Jay Inslee described a statewide plan to use these tools so that more businesses can open and more people can be active in public while public health works to slow and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Frequently asked questions

What is a case investigation?
When public health learns that someone has tested positive for COVID-19, an interviewer reaches out to talk to that person, usually by phone — this is known as a case investigation.

What will interviewers ask?
Interviewers use pre-approved questions for case investigations and contact tracing. They ask every person for their date of birth, address, gender at birth, race, ethnicity, and other questions. Interviewers will never ask for or write down immigration status, Social Security number, financial information, or marital status.

Who will they share my information with?
Information collected during interviews is used only by public health agencies. The information is protected in secure systems and individual information is not shared with anyone else. Interviewers operate under strict confidentiality rules.

What is contact tracing?
When talking to a person who tested positive for COVID-19, interviewers work to determine their close contacts — anyone who has been within six feet of them for 10 minutes or more while they were infectious. Interviewers then reach out to inform the people who were close contacts that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Are you going to tell my friends I’m the one who exposed them to COVID-19?
No. When interviewers call close contacts, they do not tell them who it was who tested positive for COVID-19.

What happens to my friends who are close contacts?
Every person interviewed receives guidance about how to keep themselves and others safe. Interviewers can also help connect people with resources they may need while they quarantine for 14 days if they are not sick or isolate at home until they are fully recovered.

Haven’t we all been quarantined since March?
Well, not technically. We’ve been staying home to follow the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order. We’ve still been able to go out of the house for groceries and other essential business. When public health people use the word “quarantine,” we really mean you have to stay at home and not leave at all or see anyone who is not in your household. A quarantine is used to keep a healthy person who has been exposed to a disease at home while we wait to see if they develop illness. If they do get sick, then we know they have not been to the grocery store or anywhere else where they may have exposed other people.

What if someone who gets sick doesn’t speak English?
Interviews are available in languages other than English. Outreach materials are available in more than 20 languages.

Please answer calls you receive from public health. When you do, it helps us stop the spread of COVID-19, which keeps people healthy and moves us closer to opening the state.

Practice compassion. Take care of your neighbors by continuing to practice good physical distancing during this time while the state slowly reopens.

More information

Stay tuned to our blog for more information on how you can help stop the spread of COVID-19. Sign up to be notified whenever we post new articles.

Information in this blog changes rapidly. Check the state’s COVID-19 website for up-to-date and reliable info at

Answers to your questions or concerns about COVID-19 in Washington state may be found at our website. You can also contact our call center at
1–800–525–0127. Hours: 6 am-10 pm, seven days a week.