The state health department unveiled a nearly $23 million federally funded contract with the Atlanta, Georgia-based staffing firm Insight Global to recruit and train remote 1,000 contract tracers in addition to the 654 currently monitoring the spread of the COVID-19 in Pennsylvania.
The contract was unveiled after coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania resurged in recent weeks, requiring the Department of Health to quickly bolster its contact tracing workforce.
“Because of this increased number of cases and continued reopening of counties across the commonwealth, contact tracing staffing efforts need to be expanded on a more urgent timeline to respond appropriately and timely,” department officials wrote in an emergency contract request to Insight Global.
In collaboration with regional and local health entities, contact tracers verify and monitor citizens who have been exposed to and are possibly infected with coronavirus. Before contact tracers can perform their job, a public health professional must complete a case investigation of patients who are classified as being a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.
As of July 30, there were 111,078 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the state and 7,176 deaths, according to the latest figures from the state Department of Health. A contact tracing workforce estimator tool created by George Washington University places the baseline number of contact tracers needed in Pennsylvania at nearly 2,000, but the number of contact tracers needed based on the number of confirmed cases is more than 5,000, as of July 31.
Insight Global was chosen for the agency’s ability to deploy a large-scale program efficiently while incorporating diversity and equity in hiring practices, Department of Health officials said in a statement released this week. Health department officials said in the contract request that Insight Global was able to point to their experience providing 1,600 resources within 30 days for New York State.
“This project will bolster and diversify our public health workforce all while coordinating and mobilizing efforts in order to conquer any potential surge in COVID-19 cases,” said Secretary of Health Rachel Levine. “We are eager to onboard and train this new cohort of public health professionals to help identify, notify and monitor anyone who came in close contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19.”
Hourly rates for contact tracers, contact tracer supervisors and care resource manager positions will range from $18 to $22 for contact tracers and $22 to $24 for contact tracing supervisors and care resource managers, according to state health authorities. The health department stated that both full-time and part-time positions will provide “ongoing skill development and training for those interested in career pathways into public health.”