Become a COVID-19 Contact Tracer
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected the entire world over the last year in more ways than one. Economies are suffering, and multiple restrictions are being placed on citizens, not to mention the devastating death toll seen all over the world. Hospitals have been overwhelmed at times with an influx of patients with COVID-19, placing medical professionals and families at risk. A new type of job has been born out of the necessity to reduce the spread of the virus. Contact tracers are needed to keep track of the spread of the virus, and in the long run, enable countries to begin to ease the restrictions and reopen economies. So what exactly is contact tracing, and how does it help to curb the spread of COVID-19?
What do COVID-19 contact tracers do?
Contact tracers are trained individuals who gather information regarding the spread of an infectious disease in order to control or combat it.
In the case of COVID-19, they are individuals who identify a known or suspected coronavirus patient (usually called the index case) and then trace the people that the suspected/confirmed individual has been in contact with. These suspected people are notified so that they can be tested and be placed in quarantine if they test positive for the virus.
If a contact does not show any symptoms of the virus, they would be asked to stay at home during the incubation period of the virus (usually two weeks). This measure helps to prevent the possible spread of the virus. During this stay-at-home period (self-isolation), the contact tracer advises the suspected individual on practical steps and measures they can take to keep themselves and the people around them safe.
Contact tracers carry out their work by asking the contacts different questions such as their name, age, symptoms, recent activities, and people they have been in contact with within a specified period. This screening is usually done through phone calls, text messages, or email. Based on the patient’s response, the contact tracer helps them identify any close contacts. Then the contact tracer must get in touch with those contacts to let them know they were potentially exposed.
A close contact is someone who:
- Has spent at least 10-15 minutes within six feet of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19
- Stays in the same living space with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19
- Has had physical contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 (e.g., handshakes, hugging, etc.)
- Has exchanged bodily fluids like cough/sneeze droplets, saliva, or sex fluids with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Close contacts have high chances of contracting the virus, so they are isolated to keep them from possibly spreading the virus to other people (since asymptomatic people can also spread the virus). A contact tracer may also visit isolated contacts to assist or check up on an individual under self-isolation, usually with an identity card to show that they are authorized.
Why is contact tracing important?
- Contact tracing helps to contain new outbreaks.
- Since some people who contract COVID-19 are asymptomatic, contact tracing helps to identify people who may have the virus unknowingly and prevent them from spreading it to other people in their respective communities.
- Contact tracing is also essential because there is currently no proven treatment for COVID-19, and the roll-out of the new vaccines is very limited.
Is contact tracing the right job for you?
Contact tracing can easily be compared to a detective’s job. It involves calling different individuals who may not necessarily be willing to hear from you and asking them several questions that can help you identify people who need to be placed in isolation. For this reason, contact tracing requires patience, persistence, emotional intelligence, and a genuine passion for helping people.
Sometimes you may be required to contact a very sick person who may not feel comfortable opening up to you, even though you need to pass across a dire message. As a contact tracer, you will need to convince them that you are reliable. So whatever information you collect from them and whatever conversation you may have with them will be kept confidential and will only be used in curbing the spread of COVID-19.
While considering contact tracing as a job, it is also important to note that like every other job, it comes with some challenges, which may include:
- Lack of community engagement and participation in the process of contact tracing makes the process somewhat challenging.
- Delay in the testing of individuals who may have the virus but are not yet isolated allows the further spread of the virus.
- People may forget who they had been in contact with before they tested positive for the virus.
- Sometimes, close contacts are purposely not reported by a patient to avoid subjecting their friends and family to isolation because of its economic consequences.
- The entire process of contact tracing is very lengthy.
Overall, contact tracing is a very flexible job. It can be done from home, and offers part-time or full-time hours. Employees can typically set their schedule and work as many hours as they choose.
In most parts of the world, contact tracers do not necessarily need to have a college degree or a public health background since they work from a script. Instead, they are usually entry-level employees who are trained just before they start the job.
However, it is recommended that potential contact tracers get comfortable using the COVID-19 related medical terminologies as they would be using them frequently during their job.
Contact Tracing Training
The CDC provides training materials and resources on how to become a COVID-19 Contact Tracer. Here you can find PDF guides as well as register for virtual training sessions. Many local colleges are now administering free courses to become a contact tracer. Each state may have a different process for hiring contact tracers, so check with your state’s health department.
Challenges are inevitable in contact tracing, but if the process is carried out efficiently, it goes a long way in controlling the spread of COVID-19.
If you want to try out contact tracing on a short-term or long-term basis, you should have professional liability insurance to cover errors or mistakes that may occur while carrying out your duties. NOW insurance offers very affordable and quick coverage with our Professional Liability policy for pandemic related classes. Fill out our online application to get an immediate quote.