Virginia plans to recruit 1,300 additional public health workers to control the spread of COVID-19.
The jobs will run from six to 12 months or longer if the pandemic continues, said Mona Bector, deputy commissioner of administration at the Virginia Department of Health.
Only about 50 people had been selected for the 1,300 positions as of Tuesday, she said.
The Virginia Department of Health reported Wednesday that the state has 32,908 COVID-19 cases, an increase of 763 from the 32,145 reported Tuesday. The 32,908 cases include 31,247 confirmed cases and 1,661 probable cases. Also, there are 1,074 COVID-19 deaths in Virginia — 1,040 confirmed and 34 probable. That’s an increase of 33 from the 1,041 reported Tuesday.
The VDH defines probable COVID-19 cases as people who are symptomatic with a known exposure to COVID-19, but have not been confirmed with a positive test.
When the hiring push for public health workers began in early May, there were openings in each of six categories as follows: contact tracer, 1,000; case investigator, 200; data manager, 70; contact tracing supervisor, 10; testing coordinator, 10; and analytics coordinator, five.
The jobs appear on employment websites such as indeed.com. Applicants will submit information to designated temporary staffing agencies that are coordinating the hiring push. The state has agreed to pay the agencies $28 to $35 an hour for each worker, Bector said. The agencies will pay the employees.
Contract tracers locate people who may have been exposed by another individual to an infectious disease and provide guidance and education about the illness. COVID-19 requires a 14-day quarantine period, and contact tracers will explain the necessity of doing this, using personal skills to build rapport and trust; refer those who need testing to resources; and place information in the state’s infection control database. The work is primarily done in the field, masked, and requires a vehicle. Interpersonal skills, cultural sensitivity and a grasp of medical terms and principles are a must, but the state has not specified any minimum education or license requirements.
Bector is counting on the public to cooperate with contact tracers. “If you are trying to reopen the economy, this is the way to help people contain the disease,” Bector said.
The hiring program comes during the 10th week of the pandemic that reached Virginia in early March and as state officials ease restrictions on public activity. To cope during the crisis, the health department has shifted its existing contingent of contact tracers, more than 400 people, away from regular duties to address the pandemic. When the new hires begin work, that will enable those workers to return to what they were doing, tasks that included contact tracing for conditions such as tuberculosis and HIV, Bector said.
Job information is available at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch contributed to this report.