Tracing COVID-19 exposure: How local health departments track those who might be infected


CENTRAL VALLEY, Calif. (KGPE) – From the moment someone tests positive for COVID-19, a process is put in place to track down any person that came into close contact with the confirmed case.

“The close contact criteria is 15 minutes of prolonged exposure and not maintaining that social distancing of 6 ft,” said Joe Prado, the community health division manager for the Fresno County Department of Public Health.


Once the person infected with the virus informs the Fresno County Department of Public Health of every person they were in close contact with, staff conducts calls to those individuals to ensure they remain in isolation or in quarantine — isolation if they are showing symptoms, quarantine if they haven’t. However, this is all based on what the confirmed case discloses.

In Madera County, the process is a little different. The county’s department of public health has investigators with the Sheriff’s Department, the probation department and the District Attorney’s office making those calls.

“Once we have that list in place, the investigators are deployed out to find those people, connect with them personally, provide the information to them, educate them about isolation and quarantine and make sure they’re able to follow those orders,” said Sara Bosse, the Madera County public health director.

If one of those individuals is showing symptoms, they too will be tested.

In Fresno County, however, that’s not the case.

“We still have our local lab testing criteria, so it’s still 60 and over, it’s the high-risk population,” Prado said.

However, Prado said although they may not be tested within their department, they could still potentially be tested by their health care physician.

Bosse said it’s important these procedures take place for the sake of containment.

“I think if we were not following up as quickly as possible and getting into isolation and quarantine, we don’t have any change of containment,” she said.

“We would have lots more positive tests coming to our attention and we would be marching toward the potential surge in our community and overwhelming the health care system at a much faster pace.”

COVID-19 resource links:

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