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States Respond to COVID-19: Approaches to Contact Tracing

To help contain the spread of COVID-19, states are engaging in advanced and rapid contact tracing practices. There are three common models that states use to do this work:

  • in-house contact tracing (used in 22 states), in which state and local officials lead the process and recruit volunteers;
  • partnerships (22 states), in which states lead the effort but partner with organizations to help with staffing and training; and
  • external contracting (7 states), in which states contract with an external company to do the work.

While states use different tracing processes and technologies, almost all begin tracing with manual calls or automated text messaging to contacts of positive cases. Several states also release surveys to reach patients who tested positive and all of their contacts. The technology states use to deploy contact tracing procedures differ greatly; some states created a phone application, some implemented a web-based tracker system, and others use existing management platforms to centralize contact tracing efforts.

State Highlight: Wisconsin

In addition to statewide contact tracing efforts, the Wisconsin Department of Health created a web-based tool to help residents gauge their exposure to COVID-19.

Gov. Tony Evers (D) explains the safest choices are to stay home and wear a mask, but he also recognizes that some individuals choose to engage in activities outside the home; this resource is meant to help people make the right choices. By providing questions to answer, scenarios to think through, and the available evidence behind certain recommendations, the tool is designed to give Wisconsinites necessary information to make choices that will help stop the spread.

We encourage all members to visit the America’s Essential Hospitals coronavirus resource page for more information about the outbreak.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at or 202.585.0127 with questions.


About the Author

Abigail Painchaud is a policy associate at America's Essential Hospitals.

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