Contact Tracer Jobs – What Is A Contact Tracer & How Can You Become One?
Contact tracing has been used for centuries to help track down sources of infectious disease and help prevent spread. In the 1800s, contact tracing led to the discovery that a London outbreak of cholera could be sourced to a single contaminated water pump.
Contact tracing, in short, is like a detective meticulously connecting the dots on an intricate pin board of suspected cases. A large part of the detective work is talking to people on the phone — asking a lot of questions but also answering a lot of them too. According to Armstrong-Hough, these are the five steps used in traditional contact tracing:
Step 1: “Identify a person who has been clinically confirmed to have COVID-19.”
Step 2: “Use a structured conversation to identify that person’s epidemiologically relevant contacts.” This would be people they’ve had close contact with — like coworkers, people they live with, and people who have been less than six feet from for more than a few minutes.
Step 3: “Reach and communicate with each of those contacts to provide information, resources (including testing), and guidance about preventing transmission.”
Step 4: “Keep in touch with each contact to monitor symptoms until they receive a negative test result or the quarantine time frame passes.”
Step 5: “Work with contacts to identify their own epidemiologically relevant contacts, tracing a second generation of contacts.”
It’s apparent from these steps that contact tracing is hard work. “Traditional contact tracing takes time because it depends on a series of person-to-person conversations,” says Armstrong-Hough. A group of tuberculosis researchers in Vietnam has recommend that COVID-19 tracers may need to reach out to up to three generations of contacts, not just one. “But good contact tracing can happen fast, and it can happen at scale —especially with the help of mobile technology.”
This less-traditional form of contact tracing is what’s been used in South Korea over the last few months to great success. It hasn’t just helped with determining accurate whereabouts of a confirmed patient — technology has also kept the population more informed, thanks to an app that sends phone alerts when someone is within 100 meters of a location a confirmed COVID-19 patient has visited. In the U.S., Apple and Google are working on their own contact tracing tech that would similarly send alerts to your phone if you’ve been in possible contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19.
Contact tracers not only interview people who may have been exposed, asking them questions about their living situation, race, date of birth, and any current symptoms or other health factors that help determine whether they are high or low risk — they also offer information on how to obtain testing, and resources so that patients can quarantine effectively. They provide intelligent human support to people that apps can’t replace.
How To Become A Contact Tracer
Becoming a contact tracer requires training — while a script can help guide your interviews, you can’t just read off of one. Given all the responsibilities of the job, it’s good if you have some kind of background in public health.
“In general, anyone with a high school education, good communication skills, and a commitment to helping can be trained to contact trace,” she says. “This is important, because it means that the people who carry out contact tracing can be recruited directly from the communities they will serve.”
Most states are currently in need of more contact tracers. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has stated that the city is looking to hire 1,000 contact tracers as soon as possible, and New York state may hire up to 17,000. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom has said that he wants 10,000 contact tracers working throughout the state. Texas is hiring almost 3,000. Experts say that nationwide, we may need at least 100,000 contact tracers to help stem the spread of COVID-19 effectively. To find these job openings, you search on job boards like Glassdoor or Indeed, your state health department’s job board, and through health organizations like Partners in Health.
Though contact tracer salaries vary, the Fund for Public Health in New York City is currently offering $57,000 with benefits. In Washington, D.C., the salary for a contact tracer starts at $51,059.
Where can I apply for the jobs?
Job sites such as Indeed, CV library, as well as LinkedIn began listing the advertisements from third party recruiters within the last few days.
The job postings are also being advertised by independent recruiters and can be found with a google search using the search term “contact tracer jobs”.
Fast way: To find a job near you, Google search “[your state] contact tracer jobs.”