COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Columbia/Boone County Health Department is working to hire several positions with CARES Act funding.
The health department is planning to hire 15 contact tracers, 12 disease investigators, three contact tracer team leads, and two communicable disease specialists.
They will be temporary positions for up to 37 weeks.
Stephanie Browning, the director of the health department, had previously said the department was behind on contacting people about possible exposure to COVID-19 because of a lack of manpower.
According to a request to the Boone County Commission for the Cares Act funding, the contact tracing positions will pay $17 per hour.
These positions require a high school diploma or GED.
“We’ve had 224 people apply for contact tracers,” said Assistant Director of the Columbia/Boone County Health Department Scott Clardy.
Tracers will go through an online program and then will be trained on the Columbia/Boone County Health Department’s systems.
Staff at the department are currently working to do contact tracing outside of their regular work. Volunteers are also working to do contact tracing.
“Hiring contact tracers, and that will be their only job, is going to significantly help us get ahold of people much more quickly,” Clardy said.
Clardy said contact tracing may not prevent people from getting the virus, but it acts as a sort of harm reduction. It stops people from doing something, or encourages them to do something differently, to protect themselves and other people.
He said that could be reflected in the numbers.
“I think that if we can get in contact with contacts more quickly eventually we should be able to see a drop in the number of cases,” he said.
Dr. Robin Blount from Boone Hospital Center said it is good that the department is working to hire more contact tracers as students are preparing to return to Columbia.
“I’ve always said August is going to be our time to be concerned about. You know, leases start August first, students come back to dorms and things in a week or two,” she said. “It’s just a lot more people in town and a lot more people mingling.”
Clardy said the department will have at least some of the contact tracer positions filled between one and three weeks after school resumes.
Blount said the main concern for hospitals right now is employees having to quarantine or take sick time after being exposed to the virus in the community.
She said having more contact tracers is another layer of defense.
“If the health department can get people, you know, potential contacts out of circulation, you know, two, three, four days sooner than they could of otherwise, yeah, it’s good for the entire community. It’s good for us,” she said.
Staff at the health department is already working to fill contact tracer team lead positions.
The people who fill these positions will make sure contact tracers are thoroughly trained and and have access to resources.
These positions will make $22 per hour and also require a high school diploma or GED.
The two communicable disease specialist positions will pay $19.21 per hour. This position requires a four-year degree in biological sciences, medical technology, public health or a related field. The department is also requiring three years of related experience.
The Health Educator positions will pay the same. These people will be responsible for providing information about the virus to businesses in the community and residents.
The data analyst positions will pay $25 per hour, while the data entry specialists positions will pay $17 per hour.
Disease investigator positions will pay $25.83 per hour, and will work to identify close contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19.
Anyone who wants to apply for the open positions can visit the city’s website under the ‘jobs’ tab.
Boone / Columbia / Coronavirus / Health / Health / Public Health Alert / Top Stories / Top Stories