As outlined in our Roadmap to Recovery, as states gradually reopen economic and social activities, they must build a robust public health infrastructure with the capacity to rapidly detect outbreaks, test and isolate individuals who may be exposed to COVID-19, and quickly trace and quarantine all contacts of positive cases. With the increased risk of transmission that comes from individuals and businesses beginning to resume normal activities, the ability to quickly identify and isolate individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19 will be crucial to “Box In” the spread of disease.
Contact tracing is an effective public health strategy that has been used successfully for decades to limit the spread of diseases like HIV, TB, sexually transmitted infections, measles, and Ebola. However, increasing these efforts to the degree needed to limit the spread of COVID-19 will require an unprecedented scaling of workforce, technology, and infrastructure to support those with COVID-19 and warning all possible contacts of potential exposure to break the chain of transmission. With the urgent need to rapidly hire and train the contact tracing workforce, governors, state health officials, and state workforce boards have the opportunity to collaborate and align efforts by retraining and reemploying dislocated workers as contact tracers, potentially providing on-ramps into longer-term education and career pathways in public health.
Considerations for Governors to Rapidly Scale the COVID-19 Contact Tracing Workforce
In light of the need for states to support an unprecedented and rapid scaling of the public health workforce to limit the spread of the disease, the following are six key steps for building and supporting a contact tracing workforce to respond to the challenges of COVID-19.
- Build on existing state and local public health contact tracing workforce and capacity
- Determine contact tracing workforce needs
- Leverage and secure state, federal, and philanthropic funding
- Address administrative barriers to timely hiring
- Develop a recruiting and hiring strategy
- Train the contact tracing workforce
All NGA coronavirus memos can be found here, or visit Coronavirus: What You Need To Know for current information on actions States/Territories are taking to address the COVID-19 pandemic; as well as advocacy, policy, and guidance documents for protecting public health and the economy.