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Contact Tracing

As part of Harvard’s multi-layered approach to health and safety, Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) has established processes for case investigation and contact tracing.

The primary goals of viral testing are to identify infected individuals as early as possible, isolate them from the broader community, and minimize the spread of the virus. If an individual tests positive, HUHS will begin contact tracing for the greater Harvard community. Anyone with known exposure to a positive case will be expected to work with our contact tracing team.

HUHS contact tracing process

Contact tracing includes two distinct processes: 1) to notify individuals who test positive and need to isolate; and, 2) to notify individuals who are exposed to a COVID-positive individual and discuss next steps, which may include quarantine.

1) Case investigation for individuals who test positive

For individuals who test positive for COVID-19, the HUHS contact tracer will:

  • Conduct an in-depth interview (typically 20-30 minutes)
  • Educate, support, and identify your needs and barriers to self-isolation
  • Connect and refer you to additional resources
  • Ensure your confidentiality
  • Identify your close contacts during your potentially infectious time period; this may include proximal contacts as well as close contacts.
  • Check in with you regularly until your isolation is over
  • Provide you with return to work/school clearance and instructions

Learn more about isolation procedures and support services

2) Contact tracing for individuals exposed to a COVID-positive person

For individuals who may have been exposed to a COVID-positive community member, the HUHS contact tracer will:

  • Notify you of your exposure
  • Maintain confidentiality for the infected person
  • Educate, support, and identify your needs and barriers to self-quarantine, if applicable
  • Connect and refer you to additional resources
  • Refer you to additional testing as appropriate
  • Check in with you regularly until your quarantine is over, if applicable
  • Provide you with return to work/school clearance and instructions

Read HUHS’ guidance “If you think you were exposed to COVID-19”

Learn more about quarantine procedures and support services

Note: A “contact tracing” procedure would convert to a “case investigation” procedure if the individual who had been exposed develops illness or receives a positive test result.