NEW YORK - A massive initiative is underway in New York City to hire several thousand people to trace the contacts of a person newly infected with COVID-19.
Since getting huge groups of people together in one place for a contact-tracing boot camp is impossible, the training will be done through a 5- to 6-hour online course launching Monday.
The Fund for Public Health, a non-profit that supports programs by the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, is responsible for the hiring portion of the plan. Available positions inlude Supervising Contact Tracer, Contact Tracer 1 and Contact Tracer 2.
Salaries range from $57,000 to $65,000.
Contact tracers are responsible for interviewing the patient to identify who they may have been in contact with during their illness and during the few days prior to exhibiting symptoms. The tracers then reach out to all those individuals to alert them to the risk of infection. Contact tracers are responsible for referring contacts to healthcare providers and asking non-ill people to stay home for 14 days so as not to spread the virus.
Those contacted by a contact tracer are not informed of who contracted the disease, according to the CDC.
The video training includes having actors portray how the tracing interviews, mostly conducted by phone or video chat, are supposed to go.
“There's all this discussion about using technology in some way. But fundamentally, this is a pretty human activity," said Josh Sharfstein of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, which developed the course with Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable foundation of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Contact tracers will also conduct in-person investigations into congregate settings and selected cases and contacts, as needed, according to the FPHNY website.
A contact tracing call center will operate every day from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Local and state officials have said that contact tracing will help "box in" the virus. 1,000 contact tracers would be hired immediately, announced Mayor Bill de Blasio on April 27.
"Every time someone tests positive we can swing into action and test their contacts," said de Blasio.
Sharfstein said the training, to be offered on the Coursera website, will be available to anyone, not just those seeking to become contact tracers, the developers said.
Countries, where contact tracing has been implemented, have been able to re-open for business sooner and have had fewer deaths and lower rates of infection.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said the reopening of any region in New York would require 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents.
Information on the openings for Supervising Contact Tracer, Contact Tracer 1 and Contact Tracer 2 are available at the FPHNYC.org.
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With the Associated Press