BALTIMORE (WJZ) — If you’re looking for something to do to help during the coronavirus pandemic, a new online course can train you to become a contact tracer to help stop the spread of the virus.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, with Bloomberg Philanthropies, launched a free online course to help train a new group of contact tracers to reach and assist people who are exposed to the coronavirus.

The new course, “COVID-19 Contact Tracing” teaches the basics of interviewing people diagnosed with COVID-19, finding their close contacts who may have been exposed and giving them advice and support for self-quarantine.

Johns Hopkins researchers believe if just one sick person infects two or three others, those cases alone could balloon to 59,000.

“Even if we can’t stop all transmission through contact tracing, even stopping one additional case at each step, dramatically reduces the total number of cases,” said Dr. Emily Gurley.

The course is available for registration here starting Monday and is open to everyone.

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES: 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Michael Bloomberg recently announced an initiative to develop a large-scale contact tracing program in New York state, which will include a baseline of 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 residents in the state.

The program is expected to have 6,400 to 17,000 tracers statewide depending on the projected number of cases, according to the release.

Applicants in New York will be invited to take the course after their application is reviewed and they pass an initial interview. The interview, followed by taking the course and passing the final assessment within 72 hours, will be required to be hired into the New York program.

“Controlling the spread of COVID-19 will require the hiring and training of a public health workforce in record time,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, the vice dean for Public Health and Community Engagement at the Bloomberg School. “This introductory course provides a strong foundation in the core concepts of contact tracing, from how to talk to people about COVID-19 to key ethical principles.”

The course is divided into five sections, or “modules,” and takes six hours to finish. It covers basic information on the virus, including symptoms of infection and how the virus is transmitted; the fundamentals of contact tracing including how to define a case, identify contacts and figure out how long a contact should isolate; the ethics of contact tracing, balancing privacy and public health concerns; and skills for effective communications in the tracing process.

“We hope the excellent content and easy accessibility of this virtual training program can contribute to achieving the speed and scale required to get the New York State program up and running,” said Dr. Kelly Henning who leads the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Health program. “We believe it also can be useful for health departments around the country and around the world eager to aggressively expand contact tracing.”

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Ava-joye Burnett

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