More contact tracers needed in Marion County as COVID-19 cases continue to rise


A close up of the hands of a young woman using a mobile phone

INDIANAPOLIS — After a record-setting rise in COVID-19 cases across the state, the IU Fairbanks School of Public Health said they are hoping to hire nearly 100 new contact tracers within the next month.

“We get anywhere from 10-20 cases a day up to 80-90 cases a day. It really ebbs and flows of how many cases get sent to us [from the state],” said Principal Investigator with IU Fairbanks School of Public Health, Shandy Dearth.

Dearth said there are currently 100 contact tracers on staff. However, a $10.5 Million contract with the City of Indianapolis and Marion County allows IU Fairbanks School of Public Health to hire up to 300 contact tracers if needed.

“It’s really important for those people who have tested positive to talk with us,” said Dearth. “Unfortunately, hospitalizations are starting to go up here in Indianapolis and in Indiana.”

Statewide, the Indiana State Department of Health has 955 contact tracers who make all the initial contacts for individuals who test positive.

However, 25% of the state’s contact tracing efforts are un-responsive. Individuals who fail to report to the state then get referred to local health departments for follow-up.

Program Supervisor with IU Fairbanks School of Public Health, Randall Seefeldt, said he oversees a team of contact tracers and is occasionally one himself. He said the hardest obstacle to overcome is simply getting Hoosiers to answer their calls.

“By the time [contact tracers] get to [positive patients], it’s not unusual for them to be like ‘Urgh, I’ve already been through this’, even though they really haven’t been through the whole scenario,” said Seefeldt.

When positive individuals do not respond to local efforts, contact tracers leave behind a door-hanging flyer with a phone number for residents to call in order to complete the survey over the phone. Soon, a more updated version will be left behind in hopes of increasing response rates.

“We’re creating new door-hangers to leave on someone’s front door when they’re not home that will have a link to an online secure survey so people can fill out the survey that way,” said Dearth. “It will also have a QR Code on it so people can just zap that with their cell phone and try and complete the survey that way.”

A spokesperson for ISDH said the state’s centralized contact tracers have made more than 475,000 calls and sent more than 630,000 texts to date.

IU Fairbanks School of Public Health’s hiring push resulted in 50 added jobs last week with another 100 planned over the next month.

To apply to become a full-time contact tracer, click here.

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