The Pennsylvania Department of Health today announced a nearly $23 million federally funded contract with Insight Global to recruit, hire, train, and support 1,000 paid contact tracing staff to further COVID-19 contact tracing efforts in collaboration with local and regional health entities to respond effectively to COVID-19.

1889 Jefferson Center for Population Health, as a member of the Southwest Pennsylvania Contact Tracing Consortium, is actively involved in recruiting local Contact Tracers for the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The Consortium is led by the Jewish Healthcare Foundation and PA Department of Health and includes a group of regional healthcare organizations, higher education institutions, and community-based organizations, that have come together to recruit individuals for paid contact tracer positions across the region to help mitgate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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“We are helping get the word out so individuals can sign up to volunteer as contact tracers,” said Jeannine McMillan, Executive Director of the Community Care HUB at the 1889 Jefferson Center for Population Health. “There will be an education process involved.”

The goal of contact tracing is to work with those who test positive for COVID-19 to identify others who may have been exposed to the virus, McMillan said. But the tracers will also work with those with confirmed infections to help remove barriers during at-home quarantine.

“Contact tracers will be able to connect to resources in the community,” she said. “While an individual is isolating if they are in need of food services, for instance, they would be able to connect them with food drop-off services.”

The Department of Health lists qualifications for Contact Tracers, which include:

• Ability to exhibit a professional, positive attitude and work ethic.

• Excellent interpersonal skills and ability to interact professionally with culturally diverse individuals during a time of crisis and distress.

• Ability to show empathy to distressed individuals.

• Excellent organizational and communication skills.

• Ability to speak, read and write English.

• Critical thinking and sound judgment required.

• Ability to handle confidential information with discretion and professionalism.

• Proficiency with computers.

“Across Pennsylvania, we have dedicated public health professionals who truly are the backbone of contact tracing, and this expansion of the contact tracing team will only support, strengthen and expand their efforts,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. “This project will bolster and diversify our public health workforce all while coordinating and mobilizing efforts in order to conquer any potential surge in COVID-19 cases. We are eager to onboard and train this new cohort of public health professionals to help identify, notify, and monitor anyone who came in close contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19.”

Insight Global will work with the department to recruit, interview, hire, train, and support contact tracers, contact tracer supervisors, and care resource manager positions. The hourly rates for these positions range from $17 to $20 an hour for contact tracers and $21 to $25 an hour for both the contact tracing supervisors and care resource managers. These positions will be offered in both full- and part-time capacities and will provide ongoing skill development and training for those interested in career pathways into public health.

Pennsylvania, in partnership with Insight Global, will focus recruitment efforts to workers who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will work with partners in local communities to ensure that individuals hired represent the diversity of the state. All positions will be remote and supported through internet access and technology, including computers and headsets, to make sure that contact tracers are equipped to do the important work at hand. Those who volunteered through ServPA will also be notified of these paid opportunities, and the commonwealth has already begun notifying community colleges and other partners about the position opportunities

Insight Global was chosen for their ability to operationalize a large-scale, well-resourced program quickly and efficiently while incorporating diversity and equity in hiring practices, engagement and training of the workforce, and sustainability of the skills developed to create lasting change in the public health and human service workforce.

This will be an additional 1,000 contact tracing staff to the 654 contact tracers across the state currently. This includes community health nurses and the county and local health department, who are primarily responsible for efforts within their own jurisdiction.

The Department of Health is hiring contact tracing field managers and community health nurses to strengthen contact tracing needs throughout the state. Contact tracing filed managers would allow each coordinator to foster relationships with their regional partners and manage contact tracers within their respective region. Community health nurses will assist with COVID-19 case investigations.

Before contact tracers perform their job, a case investigation by a public health professional must be complete. A case investigation is the identification and investigation of patients who are classified as being a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19. Contact tracing is the subsequent verification, monitoring, and support of their contacts who have been exposed to and possibly infected with the virus.

Case investigations, contact tracing efforts, and ongoing monitoring are proven public health strategies to contain the spread of diseases and are necessary to identify any instances of community spread and prevent larger outbreaks. You can find more information on the state’s contact tracing efforts through the Department of Health’s website here.