In part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the formation of a tracing “army” to try and curtail the continued spread of the coronavirus as states across the country look to reopen their economies.
“The better you do at reducing the spread of the virus, the fewer people test positive, and the fewer you need to trace back. It will require under any estimate, a tracing army to come up to scale very, very quickly,” Cuomo said in an announcement earlier this month.
The initiative will team up with former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg and with Bloomberg Philanthropies and Johns Hopkins University to develop an effective system to make the program work. The program will focus on areas with the highest rates of infection and on regions where data show could be the first to open, according to the governor’s office. The program will operate through the next flu season, and will be implemented in coordination with New Jersey and Connecticut.
The program calls for 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 people. It will utilize additional tracers based on the projected number of cases in each region. The state projects having 6,400 to 17,000 tracers depending on the number of COVID-19 cases. Contact tracing teams will work remotely with software to develop a secure database of information tracking the spread of infection. Bloomberg and Johns Hopkins will work to identify and hire potential tracers. They will develop a “world-class” online curriculum for tracers that includes a training program and an online exam that must be passed to complete the program, according to the governor’s office.
“We want the best system that we can have to get New York open and to protect New Yorkers,” Cuomo said. “But it will also be a laboratory to put together the best system ever put together so we can share that with other governments. And that’s what mayor Bloomberg does so well.”
People interested in applying to be a contact tracer can apply at www.coronavirus.health.ny.gov/get-involved-how-you-can-help . Applicants must have a high school diploma and be 18 years old and a New York resident. They must have access to a computer and internet connection and a telephone. COVID-19 contact tracers will be required to work a minimum of 20 hours per week.
Contact tracers will use a web-based database platform to call all contacts of anyone diagnosed with COVID-19, determine exposure, assess symptoms, refer for testing according to established protocols, and provide them with instructions for isolation or quarantine, according to the job posting online. They will also maintain ongoing communication with contacts to monitor symptoms, ensure compliance with quarantine rules and determine social support needs and/or handle reporting of issues that arise, the post says.