MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – There aren’t any classes going on right now at Miami Dade College, but the institution was offering an online class on contact tracing Thursday afternoon.
The class was completely full, so I couldn’t join, but there was an online class open at Johns Hopkins University.
I decided to sign up to find out what it takes to become a contact tracer, how contact tracing works and the training involved for a job that’s critical during the coronavirus pandemic.
The first step to taking the online class was to put in my name, email address and password, then fill out a brief form.
After that, I watched several videos.
The entire class takes about six hours, covering the basics of contact tracing, steps to investigate cases, ethical issues and skills for effective communication.
To pass, you have to get a score of 85% on the final exam, which consists of 40 multiple-choice questions.
The class at Johns Hopkins is similar to the free, four-hour contact tracing course at Miami Dade College, taught by Dr. Marta Lopez.
“After the student gets their certification, they can go out there and work for the health department,” said Lopez, an associate professor at Miami Dade College.
Here’s how the job works:
When a patient gets tested for coronavirus, the lab sends the test results to a centralized database.
The health department gets the information and compiles a list of names and phone numbers of those who tested positive, so contact tracers can call them.
“We help them remember, you know, ‘Did you go to the store? Did you go out to the park?’” Lopez said.
The contact tracer then asks for the names and phone numbers of every person the patient can remember coming in touch with up to two days before they started feeling symptoms, then the tracer calls those people and asks them to quarantine for 14 days.
“We do different skits [in the class] where the person ... [doesn’t] want to say anything. They think we’re invading their privacy, which in this case we do, but it is for the public good because of the pandemic,” Lopez said.
There are even more privacy concerns when it comes to contact tracing apps, which alert the contacts of people infected with COVID-19.
Pierre Valade, CEO of Jumbo Privacy, a tech privacy firm, said developers need to be more transparent about what information they collect, how they share it, and whom they share it with.
“That’s the great news for privacy, is that the new contact tracing apps that are using Apple and Google technology are by design way more protective of privacy than apps in the past,” he said.
The demand for contact tracers is high.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez announced last week that the county plans to hire 800 to 1,000 contact tracers.
Broward County is considering hiring 150 more.
According to KariER.co, a contact tracer job posting at Miami-based Contrace pays $17-$22 an hour with benefits.
You must have a high school diploma.
Miami Dade College is working on offering a second contact training course for those who didn’t get to take part Thursday.