BOSTON (Mass.gov) – The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, along with Partners In Health, has created a program to reach out to contacts of confirmed positive COVID-19 patients to help reduce the spread of the disease.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts created the COVID-19 Community Tracing program to help support local health departments from every community in their contact tracing work. The program focuses on reaching out to people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and the contacts they have been close to, making sure they have the support they need to isolate or quarantine. When the MA COVID Team calls, you can do your part by answering the phone and providing helpful information that will help flatten and reduce the curve in Massachusetts.
What is Community Contract Tracing
First, if you test positive, the Community Tracing Collaborative or your local health department will connect you with the support and resources you may need through isolation. Then with your collaboration, we will identify and reach out via phone and text to anyone you’ve been in close contact with to encourage them to get tested and self-quarantine. It is important to note that we will not release your name to anyone. Your information is strictly confidential and will be treated as the private medical record it is.
How can I verify MA COVID Team or my local health department is calling?
Calls from the MA COVID Team will use the prefix 833 and 857 and your phone will say the call is from “MA COVID Team.” Calls will be made daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Your local health department will use their local phone numbers to contact you.
What happens during the call?
When we call, a MA COVID team member or representative from your local health department will ask you for a list of all of the people you were within six feet of during the two days before you had symptoms. If you don’t have symptoms, we’ll ask about your activity during the two days before your diagnosis. We will also ask for the phone numbers of anyone you tell us about, so they can be called and cared for.
We will encourage you to let your contacts know about your illness, but we will not be sharing your information with them. We’ll call your contacts and let them know they have been exposed so they can get tested, but not tell them your name.
If you are staying at home during the isolation period, the MA COVID team member or local health department representative will also discuss any needs you may have and may connect you with a care resource coordinator who will help you get the support you need. Throughout your illness, a MA COVID team member or your local health department will check in to monitor your symptoms and needs.
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 the call. We are all in this together and by sharing information and listening to the direction of the Community Tracing Collaborative and your local health department, we can spread the word to stop the virus.
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.
Community Tracing Collaborative SMS policy
The Community Tracing Collaborative’s use of SMS in all forms, including with Short Codes
Acting on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Public Health (“DPH”), the Community Tracing Collaborative (“CTC”) uses Short Message Service (“SMS”) text messaging via cellphone for multiple purposes related to the dissemination of public health information about COVID-19, including reaching out to individuals recently diagnosed with the virus, their contacts, and individuals traveling to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from out of state who have filled out the Commonwealth’s Travel Form. In some instances the CTC will use “short codes” for SMS, short five to six digit codes that may appear on the cellphones of recipients of the CTC’s COVID-19 SMS messages instead of the longer 9 to 10 digit phone numbers.
Message and data rates may apply. You may receive up to 4 messages per day. For help, reply HELP. To opt out, reply STOP. Carriers are not liable for delayed or undelivered messages.
Using SMS, the CTC provides COVID-19 positive individuals, their contacts, and travelers to the Commonwealth with advice and support regarding infection, isolation and quarantine, how to protect their own health and that of others, and assistance in meeting basic needs for food, shelter and medical assistance while quarantined.
The CTC also collects personal information from such individuals when they in turn use SMS to provide information to the CTC about, among other things, their COVID-19 symptoms, test status, health, isolation and quarantine plans, and basic needs.
All personal information collected by the CTC is protected in accordance with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Fair Information Practices Act, MGL ch. 66A, using an array of administrative, technical and physical security measures. Information collected by DPH through the CTC via SMS may be shared as provided for by state and federal law, including with one or more local Boards of Health for purposes of facilitating contact tracing and the support of COVID-positive individuals and their contacts and travelers.