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While contact tracing is routinely performed to control STDs, TB, and other communicable diseases, local health departments have limited front-line workforce (e.g., epidemiologists, disease intervention staff, public health nurses) to support contact tracing at the scale and pace of COVID-19. The CDC provides resources for training and supplementing existing staff for ongoing and surge support.
For contact tracing to be effective, every diagnosed case must be investigated, which means the contact tracing workforce must be capable of responding quickly even during surges. Find the number of staff you’ll need using this calculator provided by public health organization Resolve to Save Lives, and review additional estimates below.
Source of estimate
Estimated number of contact tracing staff per 100k population
Massachusetts/Partners in Health (initial staffing, which PIH believes will need to be increased subsequently)
Johns Hopkins/Association of State and Territorial Health Officers
Resolve to Save Lives
Who can fill
Communicate with contacts to gather data and inform about quarantine procedures.
May work remotely during shelter-in-place (e.g., one-on-one phone interviews or text-based messaging services) or in-person.
Interview confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases.
Interview newly diagnosed cases to determine period of infectiousness, elicit contacts, and identify clinical and other resource needs.
Delegate appropriate administrative work to contact tracers (e.g., finding contact information, reviewing isolation and quarantine recommendations and resources)
Care resource manager
Arrange wrap-around services (e.g., food, medication delivery) for cases and contacts in isolation or quarantine.
Provide incentives, food, or referral to programs that provide financial assistance.
Provides clinical support to case investigators or contact tracers if cases/contacts become symptomatic or require referral to the hospital.
Data monitoring and analysis
Data entry technician
Careful data entry, review, and correction