America is currently going through an unprecedented challenge due to the current pandemic, and as is often the case in troubled times, ordinary people all over the country have found creative ways to pitch in and do their part. Some, for example, have taken up mask making. Others are donating to charity or giving blood.
Another way to contribute, especially for those with past experience in phone jobs (and I know we have a number of you folks who read this blog) is to become a contact tracer.
Right now, demand for people willing to perform this job is at an all-time high, and it's one of the most useful things those of us without medical experience can do to help flatten the curve and save lives.
What Is Contact Tracing?
When people talk about increased testing as one of the key ingredients for stopping the virus, they sometimes forget to mention contact tracing, which is a critical component of any testing-based containment strategy.
When a test comes back positive, a contact tracer will get in touch with the infected individual and determine all the people he or she might've come into close contact with during the period of likely contagion. Once they have a good list, they then reach out to all the people who could've been exposed, and encourage them to take certain precautions, including taking their temperature frequently, wearing a mask as much as possible, and avoiding crowded places whenever circumstances permit.
The idea is to find people who've been infected, and persuade them to enact a voluntary self-quarantine, just to be safe.
This is a method that's been used on a number of infectious diseases in the past, but never on the scale required for the current pandemic. During the past several months, many countries have relied on carefully constructed contact-tracing strategies to keep cases low, diminishing the need for lockdowns and other strict quarantine measures.
What Is The Job Like?
At its core, this is a cold-calling job, and comes with all the challenges typical in that line of work.
In most cases, you'll be using a list of phone numbers and calling individuals who aren't expecting to hear from you. These folks may be dealing with a lot of stress and worry, which means they might not want to talk on the phone very much.
You'll be working with a script, but you'll also need good social skills and a lot of empathy to build rapport with people and gain their trust.
In order to succeed in this job, you have to ask personal questions to determine what people have been doing over their last several days, and you'll be giving important health advice. People need to believe you're credible, so they'll relax and share the needed information.
One important thing to note: confidentiality is a key component of contact tracing.
When you call someone to let them know they might've been exposed, you can't mention the name of the infected person they came into close contact with. Some people will probably ask you probing questions to try and figure it out, but you can't provide any information that might give the infected individual's identity away.
What Does Contact Tracing Pay?
The rates will probably vary some based on your location, but $20 per hour seems to be pretty typical.
What Are The Hours Like?
Different states have their own ways of scheduling for this work, but based on what I could find from browsing the web and reading comments, it looks like most Contact tracing jobs are part time – generally in the range of 20-hours per week.
What Are The Requirements?
Every state has their own rules, so there's likely a lot of variance, but the jobs I looked at during my research didn't have particularly tough requirements.
In normal times, the qualifications needed for this type of work were probably fairly strict, but because of the dramatic increase in demand, many states have apparently lowered the bar quite a bit.
How To Get Hired As A Contact Tracer?
Unfortunately, there's no set in stone method for getting these jobs. Each state is handling the hiring in their own way, and the situation is changing so rapidly that any specific concrete guidelines might be outdated within a week.
For now, it seems the best thing to do is check the websites for your local and state health departments.
If you're interested in helping out during the current crisis, and Contact Tracing seems like something you might be good at, check out the following links for additional information:
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