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Contact tracing

Contact tracing is a critical component of Philadelphia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are contacted by the Health Department, please answer or return these calls/texts. They are not spam.

About contact tracing

Contact tracing is an important tool that health departments use to fight diseases. In general, contact tracing involves identifying people who have an infectious disease and their “contacts” (people who may have been exposed) and working with them to stop the spread of the disease.

Participation in contact tracing is voluntary. People can decline to participate at any point, but participating fully can help stop the spread of the disease and save others’ lives.

Contact tracing is still an important tool to stop the spread of COVID-19, especially among those who are not vaccinated. The Health Department has launched an option for individuals to provide some information to us online through an SMS survey invitation. This may be more convenient for some individuals and is a way to help us get information quickly to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

If you’ve just been told you have COVID-19, learn how to notify your own contacts.

Contact tracing is confidential and secure.

Case investigators and contact tracers will:

  • Never release information collected from COVID-19 tests or by our contact tracing staff to any law enforcement agencies, including ICE.
  • Never ask about your immigration status.
  • Never tell a contact who gave us their contact information.
  • Never ask for Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, or bank account numbers.
Download Answer the call, a flyer about contact tracing in Philadelphia. In English and Spanish.

How to verify a call is really from the Health Department

A Health Department contact tracer will:

  • Call from (215) 218-XXXX.
  • Text from 77290 or (833) XXX-XXXX or (855) XXX-XXXX.
  • Text from (855) XXX-XXXX with a survey link.
  • Offer to have you call us back using the number on the City’s website: (215) 685-5488.
  • Only send email messages from a or address.

Some healthcare systems in Philadelphia may be doing contact tracing with their patients, but most contact tracing is done by Health Department employees.

How it works

Health Department contacts a person who has tested positive.

Contact tracing for COVID-19 begins when a specially trained case investigator from the Health Department contacts a person who has tested positive.

The Health Department is notified of everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 in Philadelphia. All testing labs are required to report this information.
A case investigator helps with plan for isolation.

The case investigator will help the person make a plan to isolate themselves (stay away from others) and keep an eye on their symptoms. In the home, anyone sick or infected should separate themselves from others by staying in a specific “sick room” or area and using a separate bathroom, if available.

Learn more about isolation with COVID-19.
Investigator asks about close contact with others.

The case investigator will also ask for the names and contact information of anyone the person with COVID-19 has had close contact with recently.

A close contact is someone who was within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes. This usually includes household members, intimate contacts, and caregivers, but can include others.

A contract tracer reaches out to those in close contact.

Next, a contact tracer will contact each of these “contacts” to tell them that they may have been exposed to COVID-19. The contact tracer is not permitted to reveal who provided their name; that information is private.

Our contact tracers will contact you via phone or text with one of these phone numbers:

    • (215) 218-XXXX (phone)
    • 77290 (text)
    • (833) XXX-XXXX (text)
    • (855) XXX-XXXX (text)
Please answer or return these calls and texts. Calls from these numbers are not spam.
A tracer monitors contact during 10-day quarantine.

The contact tracer will tell the “contact” that they need to quarantine, or stay at home away from others, for 10 days. They will also give guidance for shortening the length of quarantine to 7 days with a negative test. The contact tracer will enroll the “contact” in automatic symptom monitoring by text (SMS) every day for 10 days after their exposure to check on their symptoms (or provide a phone call instead if preferred).

Call us with any questions.

If you don’t receive a contact tracing call, you can call our call center at 215-685-5488 with any questions and to make sure we have your accurate contact information.

Find out more about how to notify your own contacts.

Contact tracing by other organizations

Is your organization doing contact tracing and protecting confidentiality? If so, make sure you carefully review best practices by the CDC and check out this comprehensive guide developed by Vital Strategies.