‘I believe that this is a tried and true strategy’ VDH is looking to hire contact tracers to help track and stop the spread of COVID-19

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HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — As the number of coronavirus cases in Virginia continue to increase, the state is ramping up a program that will help identify people who have been exposed to the virus but may not be aware of it. 

RELATED: Read about the latest coronavirus case count in Virginia

If you test positive for COVID-19, you got the virus from someone else. The question then becomes, who? Contract tracers would help figure that out. 

RELATED: Contact tracers are key to reopening and VDH needs 1,000 of them

The Virginia Department of Health is looking to hire about 1,300 people to help track the spread of COVID-19. 

Contact tracing isn’t new to public health. This method is often used to track sexually transmitted diseases, but some argue its more important now than ever. 

Marshall Vogt, a senior epidemiologist with VDH says people interested in becoming a contact tracer should have a general knowledge about the coronavirus. Vogt also says they should be empathetic and good at communicating with people. That’s because contact tracers are responsible for calling people who have may have been exposed to the virus. 

10 On Your Side spoke with Leslie Hoglund, a York County resident and Public Health Professor at ODU. Hoglund just completed an online training course through the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO).

Johns Hopkins University is also offering a contact tracing online training course.

She is training to become a volunteer contact tracer. She was activated by the Medical Reserve Corps for contact tracing on the Eastern Shore and is set to begin her work any day now. 

“Yeah, so a lot of times it’s really offering support,” she said. “You can imagine getting a call and saying, you know you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 and so what we want to do is identify, you know, if you start to develop signs and symptoms, of what you need to do, what protocol should be followed, assess where you’ve been and who may have also been around.” 

Using that information, the tracers then build a web, tracking down others that may have been exposed. If you are interested in these paid or volunteer positions, Vogt says you don’t need a background in science or public health. You also don’t need to take any coursework. 

“I believe that this is a tried and true strategy that if done well and at the level of the population density that we need to be it absolutely can suppress the spread of COVID-19,” Hoglund said.

During a news conference last week, Governor Ralph Northam said VDH is working with several staffing companies across the state to help speed up the hiring process. He said they’ve already received about 3,000 resumes.

To read information about contact tracing from the CDC, click here.

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