The coronavirus has taught us a lot of different new vocabulary and concepts. We've learned about washing our hands for 20 seconds to kill the virus, we've learned about why face masks help keep down the spread of the virus, and we've learned about contact tracing, but why is contact tracing important and how does it work?

Contact tracing isn't a new concept to medical workers. It was used when HIV broke out in the 80s, and used again in 2003 during the SARS outbreak, and in the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Contact tracing has been used during the COVID-19 outbreak, but here's what you need to know about it moving forward:

1. It's an investigation - Much like police gather evidence, contact tracing is gathering evidence of where an infected person has been and with whom they've been in contact. They ask the infected person where they've been and then work backward to let people who know that they might have been exposed.
2. Information - If someone is contacted by an official and told they might have been exposed, they are given information about how to go about quarantining themselves, how to deal with their family members, or other information to prevent spreading the disease.
3. It's not easy - There is a lot of work that goes into determining where someone has been and who they've been in contact with. Think about all the places you go during the day, even under stay at home orders. Contact tracers need to try to get phone numbers or other contact information as quickly as possible in order to make sure the infectious period doesn't expire before they can be notified and isolated.

The best way to make sure we all make things easier for contact tracers is to stay home and use protective equipment when we do venture out. If we all work together, we can get through to the other side of this outbreak sooner.