Delawareans who have come in contact with individuals diagnosed with coronavirus may soon be hearing from one of the nearly 200 new contact tracers who officially begin their training next week.
After a surge of interest from people looking for part-time work, the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) has wrapped up hiring and will begin training its first cohort on Monday. The pilot group is expected to start the week of June 28.
The new hires, many of whom are from outside the state, will be paid $16 to $18 per hour based on experience with interviewing and public health. Contact tracers in Maryland make $17 – $25/hour, and they make about $19/hour in Pennsylvania.
Sixty percent of new hires are from Delaware
DPH says more than 2,000 people applied for the telephone-based contact tracing positions, which will be managed through the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago.
NORC hired 190 contact tracers, of whom 117 – about 60 percent – are Delaware residents.
DPH says the overall goal is to have a team of at least 135-140 telephone-based contact tracers and 42 field investigators to reach out to individuals DPH cannot reach by phone. As Delawareans venture out more frequently, their jobs are expected to become more crucial — and perhaps more difficult.
In a May 22 press conference, public health head Dr. Karyl Rattay announced that NORC would be aiming to fill most positions with Delawareans.
“I want to emphasize that we’re really looking to hire Delawareans for these roles – that’s really important to us,” said Rattay.
Another DPH spokesperson who provided TSD with the demographic data around the new hires also seemed to imply that the workers hailed from Delaware.
“NORC hired a diverse group of interviewers to work on this project and ensured that staff were selected from a variety of locations around the state,” said DPH spokesperson Jen Brestel.
NORC hired people with interviewing skills and public health knowledge
Individuals with interviewing skills and public health knowledge who could hit the ground running got priority consideration.
“NORC and DHSS were looking for candidates with compassion and empathy, the ability to establish a quick, positive relationship on the phone, attention to detail, and familiarity with basic technology,” said Brestel.
Contact tracers interview individuals who have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for a pandemic disease. The case investigators share appropriate care and self-isolation information with them, which health officials say is an essential part of breaking the chain of infection.
Information is to be kept confidential
Dr. Rattay says Delaware’s methods for capturing information in the contact tracing process will be kept secure. Training will involve a primer on the federal regulations protecting confidential health information.
The new hires will replace 105 members of the Delaware National Guard who are currently supporting DPH’s contact tracing effort.
Calls from case investigators could come at night or even on the weekends — contact tracers will be placing calls seven days a week from 9:00 am through 8:00 pm.
Rattay said the state would require contact tracing efforts for at least six months.
Cases of coronavirus have continued to decline in the state, and hospitalizations have been below 100 all of this week. However, as the state reopens, health officials say they need to be prepared for any potential increase of Covid-19 cases. health officials say they will monitor their needs and adjust accordingly.
“Should Delaware need additional contact tracing services down the road, we will work with NORC to maintain a workforce of a size needed to efficiently and quickly make sure contact tracing is timely and effective,” said Brestel.