BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana health officials are hoping to hire about 700 contact tracers to help identify people who may have been exposed to COVID-19.
Officials with the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) say contact tracing is critical to help slow the spread of the virus and is necessary in order to safely reopen the economy. Simply put, contact tracing is a process in which those who have been infected with COVID-19 are interviewed to identify with whom they may have come into close contact so those people can be notified and can self-quarantine.
Close contact is defined as household members, sexual partners, or those who may have been within six feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes.
“As we fight to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Louisiana, it is vitally important that we put Louisianans to work on solving the problem. Contact tracing is key part of our strategy for moving the state forward, as it will allow us to determine who has been exposed and is at the highest risk for becoming sick, get them tested and keep them isolated from others,” Governor John Bel Edwards said during a press briefing Friday, May 8. “We are also working with Louisiana Workforce Commission and other statewide partners helping to connect Louisianans with jobs. These 250 agents are just the beginning. We will continue to add additional team members and this system will allow us to build up to 700 agents in four weeks if needed, and will expand as needed.”
Those who may have been exposed will be asked to self-quarantine in order to help slow the spread of the virus.
Contact tracers will have to make phone calls to those who have been infected to interview them about with whom they’ve been in close contact. This will have to be done in a compassionate and sensitive way that protects the privacy of everyone involved.
“Contact tracing is crucial, but it alone will not get us past this pandemic,” said LDH Secretary Dr. Courtney Phillips. “No matter how many contact tracers we have, if individuals who are contacted by these contact tracers do not self-isolate then we will not succeed. We can get past this but only if we all do our part.”
Contact tracers will have to go through an extensive training process ahead of time and must have graduated high school.
The week on May 4, LDH signed a contract with Accenture and Salesforce to manage the state’s contact tracing process. Two Louisiana-based call centers will be used and all agents will be Louisiana residents. Training will be managed by LSU’s Stephenson Disaster Management Institute. People from around the state will be hired, but the initial call centers will be located in Lafayette and New Orleans.
State health officials say personal health information will be protected during this process. Those who receive a phone call stating they may have been exposed will not be told the name of the person who may have exposed them.
To apply to be a contact tracer, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The first group of contact tracers, around 250 people, will begin training the week of May 11, with services available to the state by May 15.
For more information about the state’s coronavirus response, click here, or text LACOVID to 67283.