The Rutgers School of Public Health, a part of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, said Wednesday it is working with the New Jersey Department of Health to train the first group of the state’s auxiliary COVID-19 contact tracing workforce.
The launch of the Community Contact Tracing Corps Program will initially include students studying public health, social work and related fields at Rutgers, other university schools, and schools from across the state through collaborations with New Jersey colleges and universities.
The state is seeking to train 1,000 contact tracers, and possibly more, depending on the progression of the pandemic.
Through contact tracing, trained staff will interview people thought to have contracted a contagious disease to determine who they may have contacted before and after becoming infected as a way of halting the chain of transmission.
Staff will use a curriculum based on national training platforms that ensures confidentiality for all people interviewed, along with an understanding of New Jersey-specific cultural information. The School of Public Health will create a prototype to train and help deploy these contact tracers that other states and departments of health may look to as a model.
Local health departments, who regularly undertake contact tracing for infectious diseases like Hepatitis A and HIV, have been overwhelmed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Once trained, the Community Contact Tracing Corps will support local health departments by conducting in-depth interviews with those infected and any close contacts.
“The New Jersey COVID-19 Contact Tracing Program is another tool in our collective fight against COVID-19,” said Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health. “The initiative, intelligently designed from a public health, educational and economic perspective, relies on Rutgers School of Public Health graduate students and alumni, along with other Rutgers and New Jersey higher education collaborators to serve the communities in which they live, work and play.”
Contact tracers will use CommCare – a digital platform used in New York State, Philadelphia, San Francisco and other county and local governments – to track COVID-19 cases across the state.
“Contact tracers are a key part of the state’s effort stop the spread of COVID-19 and continue to move forward on the road to recovery,” said New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “With the collaboration of Rutgers School of Public Health, we are developing culturally competent training curriculum and working to build a strong community contact tracing corps to help keep New Jersey residents safe.”