COVID-19 Contact Tracing in Two Counties - North Carolina, June-July 2020

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020 Sep 25;69(38):1360-1363. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6938e3.


Contact tracing is a strategy implemented to minimize the spread of communicable diseases (1,2). Prompt contact tracing, testing, and self-quarantine can reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) (3,4). Community engagement is important to encourage participation in and cooperation with SARS-CoV-2 contact tracing (5). Substantial investments have been made to scale up contact tracing for COVID-19 in the United States. During June 1-July 12, 2020, the incidence of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina increased 183%, from seven to 19 per 100,000 persons per day* (6). To assess local COVID-19 contact tracing implementation, data from two counties in North Carolina were analyzed during a period of high incidence. Health department staff members investigated 5,514 (77%) persons with COVID-19 in Mecklenburg County and 584 (99%) in Randolph Counties. No contacts were reported for 48% of cases in Mecklenburg and for 35% in Randolph. Among contacts provided, 25% in Mecklenburg and 48% in Randolph could not be reached by telephone and were classified as nonresponsive after at least one attempt on 3 consecutive days of failed attempts. The median interval from specimen collection from the index patient to notification of identified contacts was 6 days in both counties. Despite aggressive efforts by health department staff members to perform case investigations and contact tracing, many persons with COVID-19 did not report contacts, and many contacts were not reached. These findings indicate that improved timeliness of contact tracing, community engagement, and increased use of community-wide mitigation are needed to interrupt SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19
  • Contact Tracing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control*