The ‘army’ of tracers needed to reopen New York does not yet exist, with interviews for the thousands of people required to build it only just getting underway.
Cuomo announced the initiative last week in collaboration with former mayor Mike Bloomberg. The pair touted it as the key to reopening and said their goal is to create a system that is so effective they will share it with other governments around the world.
On Monday, Cuomo announced that having enough tracers – 30 for every 100,000 people – was one of the requirements he will insist on before allowing different regions across New York to reopen.
In New York City, that means 2,520 are needed before businesses can get back to work.
The state website to apply for the positions opened on Friday and since then, 6,000 people have applied but it is unclear how many of them have been hired.
The Mayor’s Office said it was ‘on track’ to meet the goal of 2,250 by May 15 but would not provide details on how many people had been given jobs let alone whether any had completed the training required once they are brought on.
Before they can start interviewing people, the tracers must complete an online curriculum developed by Bloomberg Philanthropies in coordination with the Department of Health, then they must pass an exam.
A doctor wearing a face mask outside Gotham Health in East New York, Brooklyn, on Tuesday. The state wants to hire some 17,000 tracers but so far it’s unclear if any have been brought on
NYC hopes to hire 1,000 people and bulk out the remainder of the workforce with existing Department of Health staff.
THE STEPS TO JOINING ‘ARMY’ OF TRACERS
1) Get hired
There are between 6,000 and 17,000 tracers needed and they are being invited to apply for the jobs – which are paid – online.
To qualify, candidates must have some medical or healthcare experience and must be able to work from home.
The job in New York City pays between $57,000 and $65,000 depending on level of seniority.
There are three tiers; supervising contact tracers and two types of contact tracers
They must be able to work from home, have experience in healthcare and have at least a four-year high school diploma
2) Complete the online curriculum and exam put together by Bloomberg Philanthropies
It is unclear if it has been completed yet
It is also unclear if any of the people currently testing positive for COVID-19 are being interviewed by the tracers.
Among the job requirements is to have a four-year high school diploma and experience in healthcare.
Candidates are also asked to show ‘a demonstrated commitment to supporting communities who have experienced systemic oppression and bias (e.g. people of color, LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, justice involved persons, etc.)’
While they will start by working from home, the jobs may eventually be moved to a call center, the application reads.
When they announced the program last week at the governor’s daily briefing, Bloomberg said: ‘One of the most important steps to take to re-open the economy as safely as possible is to create a system of contact tracing.
‘When social distancing is relaxed, contact tracing is our best hope for isolating the virus when it appears – and keeping it isolated.’
Cuomo admitted that it would be ‘monumental’ to try to track every person who had come into contact with a known case, but that they would ‘do their best’.
On Monday, there were 2,239 new cases reported across the state of New York.
Other states have opened without having such a contact tracing program in place.
The job requirements for contact tracing roles in New York City as advertised
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the effort with former Mayor Mike Bloomberg last week
In Texas and Georgia, two of the first to allow people back to work, jobs for contact tracers are being advertised and they say they will meet the CDC’s guidelines eventually, but are not resting their reopening plan on it.
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom has set out plans for a tracing program but it’s unclear if he will insist on implementing it before he allows people to go back to work.
North Dakota is leading the country with the proportion of contact tracers it has.
The state already has the recommended 30 per 100,000 residents and says it plans to have more than double that number by the time hiring is complete.
Former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb told NPR that while the concept of a national tracing army of some 180,000 – which is what is needed under the CDC guidelines – it is doable.
‘We already see the states making efforts to bring on thousands of new public health workers to do contact tracing.
‘We’re going to need this number of people if we want to enter into the fall with the kinds of resources we need to try to trace infection to prevent large outbreaks.’