Contact Tracing

*** At this time, we are unable to contact everyone who tests positive for COVID-19. Please use our FAQ section below to find the answer to your question. We are working diligently to expand our capabilities and appreciate your patience. If you cannot find the answer to your question, please call 978-674-4307 to speak with a Contact Tracer. ***

Contact Tracing - FAQs

The links below are generalized guidance that apply to most scenarios. If you were given specific instructions by your health care provider or a public health professional, please follow their instructions.

Contact Tracing - Overview

What is COVID-19 contact tracing?

Contact tracing helps protect you, your family, and your community by:

  • Helping people with COVID-19 get referrals for services and resources they may need to safely isolate.
  • Notifying people who have come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 about their exposure.
  • Helping people who were exposed to COVID-19 know what steps to take, depending on their vaccination status.

How does my Health Department know that I have COVID-19?

In Massachusetts, health care providers are required by law to report certain diseases, such as COVID-19, to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Some of these diseases are reported to the Local Health Department or Board of Health, and require follow-up that helps us understand and prevent the spread of disease. 

Who will call me?

In April 2020, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts created the COVID-19 Community Tracing Collaborative (CTC) program to help support local health departments from every community in their contact tracing work. The CTC closed in December 2021.

The Lowell Health Department has hired 2 full-time contact tracers to perform contact tracing for Lowell residents.

Starting 12/29/21, you may also receive an automated phone call and/or text message.

Due to an increase in the numbers of COVID-19 cases, you might not get a call right away. If you tested positive for COVID-19 and are waiting for a call from a contact tracer, you can get detailed instructions by clicking the links in the FAQ section on this webpage.

How can I verify that the Lowell Health Department is calling?

Calls directly from the Lowell Health Department will come from 978-674-4010 or 978-674-4307

Automated phone calls will come from 781-373-9800. Automated text messages will come from 89361.

During contact tracing, the health department staff will not ask you for:

  • Money
  • Social Security number
  • Bank account information
  • Salary information
  • Credit card numbers
  • Citizenship status

If you have any concerns about a phone call you received, please call 978-674-4308.

About your privacy

The confidentiality of your private information is protected by Massachusetts law. It will only be used to help the Commonwealth respond to and prevent cases of an infectious disease. We will not release your name to anyone with whom you’ve been in contact without your permission.

What happens during the call?

When we call for contact tracing, first we will ask you questions to confirm that we are talking to the right person. This is to help protect your privacy. 

Then, we will ask you questions about your current illness and your symptoms. 

Next, we will ask you for a list of the people you were in close contact with during the two days before you experienced symptoms (or, if you did not have symptoms, during the two days before your positive test). “Close contact” is defined as being within 6 feet of someone for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, even if both people were wearing face masks1. 

We will encourage you to let your contacts know about your illness. If needed, we’ll call your contacts to let them know that they have been exposed to COVID-19 and encourage them to get tested.  We will not share your name or any of your personal information. Your information is strictly confidential and will be treated as the private medical record it is.

Our staff may also be able to connect you with other supportive services that can help you isolate or quarantine.

1 Close contact is defined differently in Massachusetts schools, per DESE protocol.

Who decides how long I need to quarantine/isolate?

The Lowell Health Department adheres to Massachusetts Department of Public Heath guidance on isolation and quarantine for COVID-19. 

Why community tracing matters

Although social distancing has been proven effective in slowing the spread of the virus, there is more that we can do to take care of each other. With contact tracing in place, we can track the spread and reduce additional exposure to others by encouraging testing, supporting quarantine and social distancing. Many people who have COVID-19 don’t show any symptoms and don’t realize that they may be spreading the virus. So, if you get a call, keep your family and friends safe by answering. We are all in this together and by sharing information and listening to the direction of your local health department, we can spread the word to stop the virus.

COVID-19 definitions

Quarantine: Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. Quarantine is for individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and are not fully vaccinated.  Quarantine is measured from the last exposure to a positive case. Follow this link for more information about quarantine.

Isolation: Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. Isolation is for individuals who:

  • Have been diagnosed with COVID-19 by a test or health care provider
  • Have been exposed to COVID-19 and are having symptoms 

Close Contact: Someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person during their infectious period for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period (for example, three individual 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes during the same day). If you are a close contact and are not fully vaccinated, you need to quarantine.

Infectious period: The time during which an infected person can spread the disease to other people. A person with COVID-19 can spread the virus starting from 2 days before they have any symptoms (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days before the positive specimen collection date), until they meet criteria for discontinuing home isolation. 

Helpful Videos

Answer the Call: COVID-19 Contact Tracing

Answer the Call: COVID-19 Contact Tracing (Spanish)