New Contact Tracing Playbook Provides Guidance to Public Health Officials on Nationwide Efforts to Contain COVID-19

16 June 2020 (New York, NY) – As the COVID-19 pandemic response in the United States moves to a new stage of containment, Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, announced the release of a new Contact Tracing Playbook to help cities, states, and counties establish trusted and effective contact tracing programs that will reduce the spread of the virus and save lives.

Contact tracing is an essential part of the Resolve-recommended Box It In strategy which consists of strategic testing, rapid isolation, complete contact tracing, and supportive quarantine. This is essential to slow transmission of the virus, which has been diagnosed in 2 million people nationwide and likely has infected millions more. A new workforce of thousands of contact tracers is launching in the US, overseen by state and local public health departments.

“Contact tracing is intense, difficult work, but our safety and economy depend on it,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, former CDC Director and President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives. “A key to success will be using data in real time to continuously improve program performance and then sharing what we learn about what’s working and what’s not working.”

“Contact tracing is a proven public health strategy and one of our best bets to slow the pandemic and save lives,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg LP and three-term mayor of New York City. “Ramping up a contact tracing program can be challenging, but governments don’t have to reinvent the wheel. The new Resolve to Save Lives Playbook can help public health leaders act quickly to put contact tracing in place and limit the spread of COVID-19, which is why Bloomberg Philanthropies is supporting this critical effort.”

The new Contract Tracing Playbook provides technical guidance, checklists and easy-to-use templates that public health leaders can use to enhance contact tracing protocols and programs. Available through the Resolve to Save Lives website, the Playbook is aligned with contact tracing guidance released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offering implementation tools to help jurisdictions rapidly implement contact tracing plans.

Michael Bloomberg announced that Bloomberg Philanthropies would support the development of a large-scale contact tracing program in New York State. Governor Cuomo partnered with Bloomberg Philanthropies, Johns Hopkins University, and Vital Strategies to quickly stand up a state-of-the-art contact tracing program where best practices are being developed and shared across the country including in the new Contact Tracing Playbook. Bloomberg Philanthropies committed $10.5 million, as well as organizational support and technical assistance, to help build and execute the program.

The Playbook includes sample job descriptions, sample forms and scripts, protocols for contact tracing in group settings (e.g., restaurants and events), a simple excel-based staffing calculator, template scopes of work for setting up essential supports for people while in isolation and quarantine, fact sheets and community engagement guides, as well as draft priority indicators to guide continuous program improvement. The Playbook will also help public health departments navigate privacy and human rights issues and provide risk communication guidance to guide communications with the public about the importance of contact tracing to control COVID-19 spread.

Although the COVID-19 virus is new, contact tracing is a well-established and proven public health tool that relies on trust, data, clear communication, community engagement and public support. Contact tracing is a human-to-human effort, not a computer-based or phone tracking system. The thousands of tracers’ primary responsibility is to be empathic and respect patient privacy. Tracers will identify, notify and interview cases and provide instructions for isolation. They will also locate and warn contacts and then monitor those contacts as well as provide access to needed support.

The Playbook will be regularly updated and revised as new learnings are generated. It is designed to elicit feedback and share emerging knowledge generated by public health authorities, community providers, epidemiologists, and others involved in contact tracing. As it is updated, it will also offer health departments messaging and scripts they need to help individual communities better understand and support public health efforts. The Playbook will also link to technological solutions for managing workflow and making the contact tracing process more efficient and effective.

“Contact tracing is part of a four-pillar Box-it-in strategy of COVID-19 containment and control,” explains Daliah Heller, a director with Vital Strategies supporting the US contact tracing effort. “Expand and prioritize testing; isolate infected people to prevent disease spread; identify contacts who infected people may have exposed; and quarantine contacts. Each of the four is crucial to prevent the virus from spreading explosively again. Success requires urgent expansion of our public health capacity.”


Media Contacts:

Erin Sykes, Resolve to Save Lives: [email protected]; +1.646.612.0001
Christina Honeysett, Vital Strategies: [email protected]; +1.914.424.3356

About Resolve to Save Lives

Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of the global health organization, Vital Strategies, is a five-year, $225 million initiative funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gates Philanthropy Partners, which is funded with support from the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation. Resolve received additional funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the CDC Foundation and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for the COVID-19 response. It is led by Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, To find out more visit: or Twitter @ResolveTSL

Resolve to Save Lives created a website called that shows how prepared each country is for an epidemic. This site is also a resource for current coronavirus statistics and resources.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in 73 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible. To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat. Stay in the know: Follow #KnowCOVID or subscribe to Vital Strategies’ Twitter, Facebook or Instagram accounts.

Media Contact

[email protected]

About Resolve to Save Lives

Resolve to Save Lives is a not-for-profit organization partnering with countries, communities and organizations to prevent 100 million deaths from cardiovascular disease and make the world safer from epidemics. To find out more, visit: or Twitter @ResolveTSL.