Inslee announces contact tracing initiative

Confidential efforts will help businesses open and stop spread of the virus.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced the launch of a statewide contact tracing plan today that will allow more businesses to open and more people to be active in public while helping to slow and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Contact tracing is another tool in our toolbox for tackling COVID-19 in Washington,” Inslee said. “While we need to continue physical distancing, this will allow us to get a better handle on who gets sick and how the virus is spread, which is vital to re-opening our economy.”

Local health departments will lead these efforts and the state Department of Health and its partners will support this work.

People should confine at home immediately upon first symptoms. People testing positive need to confine at home until at least 10 days have passed since first symptoms and at least 72 hours have passed without a fever (without use of fever-reducing medication) and they see improvement in cough or shortness of breath.

When someone tests positive for COVID-19, an interviewer will reach out by phone. They will ask who that person has been in close contact with, then reach out to those other people to let them know they have been exposed.

Close contacts need to confine themselves at home for 14 days after the exposure and monitor for fever, cough and shortness of breath for the duration of confinement. The state encourages testing of all close contacts, regardless of symptoms. Support is available for people who must confine at home.

The information collected is only used by public health professionals and is confidential. It will not be shared. Contacts will not be told the name of the person who may have exposed them to COVID-19. These professional interviewers will ask about symptoms, recent exposure and demographic questions such as age, address, gender and ethnicity.

During the governor’s press conference, he announced that the statewide contact tracing team will be trained and available as needed by the end of the week (May 15). The contact tracers will include members of the Washington State National Guard, though they are an interim part of the initiative. The state Department of Health plans to continue training more workers and volunteers to replace them over time.

“At the sign of any symptoms, people should confine themselves at home. Voluntary confinement for both ill persons and the members of their households will be a major challenge, but it is one of the most critical portions of this entire endeavor,” Inslee said. “Individuals and their households will need to be confined for 14 days if they are exposed to the virus. We know this will present challenges for some families and we are looking at ways to address them.”

Community Health Volunteers help public health agencies with customer care/service, data gathering and entry and analysis, language skills, and much more. Volunteer assignments may vary in scope, location, time and length of commitment. A current healthcare license or medical background is not required to volunteer. Email for more information or visit the Washington State Emergency Registry of Volunteers (WaServ) website to register and indicate your interest.

Watch the governor’s full press conference on

News and updates from Washington state Gov.

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