Texas soon to hire around 5,000 workers, contact tracers to help track COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Close to 50,000 Texans have tested positive for COVID-19 since March, and state leaders said they haven’t been able to contact every Texan who has tested positive.

The Department of State Health Services said they’d need a team of around 4,000 to 5,000 workers, including contact tracers, to contact those who have tested positive. Other jobs include case managers and epidemiologists.

Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area is working to turn some of these temporary opportunities into long-term solutions by teaming up with its higher education partners to come up with a course or training program that will lead to careers in these fields.

At present, those interested in becoming a contact tracer are required to take a free online Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health course. Those interested in applying do not have to have a medical background.

WSRCA officials said they’re looking for people who at least have a high school diploma, as well as communication and computer skills. Hourly pay ranges between $14 to $19, and benefits WSRCA officials said will depend on the employer which could be the state department, a local agency or a hospital. Officials are working to finalize the details to be able to fill the job positions.

“We need to make sure that we can have these positions filled so that we can mitigate any type of outbreak that happens in our community and really quickly identified what happened, what causes to happen, and how can we prevent that from happening again,” Diane Tackett, WSRCA’s chief operating officer said. “This is very critical for us and it’s a high priority for us to really recruit quickly and get those positions filled.”

In Travis County, Workforce Solutions Capital Area officials said they’re working with Austin Public Health to figure out when they will begin to assist in hiring to help fill contact tracing jobs.

Both organizations said they will use the National Dislocated Worker Grant funds from the Texas Workforce Commission to cover part of the wages for these jobs. WSCA said they will be able to use those funds to cover 100% of the wages for the positions for up to one year.

At present, the Texas Workforce Commission said there are thousands of jobs available and people can apply online.

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