More contract tracers to be hired; Pa. adds 970 new cases

The Pennsylvania Department of Health today announced a nearly $23 million federally funded contract with Insight Global to recruit, hire, train, and support 1,000 paid contact tracing staff to further COVID-19 contact tracing efforts in collaboration with local and regional health entities to respond effectively to COVID-19.

“Across Pennsylvania, we have dedicated public health professionals who truly are the backbone of contact tracing, and this expansion of the contact tracing team will only support, strengthen and expand their efforts,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. “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. 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.”

Insight Global will work with the department to recruit, interview, hire, train, and support contact tracers, contact tracer supervisors, and care resource manager positions. The hourly rates for these positions range from $18 to $22 an hour for contact tracers and $22 to $24 an hour for both the contact tracing supervisors and care resource managers. These positions will be offered in both full- and part-time capacities and will provide ongoing skill development and training for those interested in career pathways into public health.

Pennsylvania, in partnership with Insight Global, will focus recruitment efforts to workers who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will work with partners in local communities to ensure that individuals hired represent the diversity of the state. All positions will be remote and supported through internet access and technology, including computers and headsets, to make sure that contact tracers are equipped to do the important work at hand. Those who volunteered through ServPA will also be notified of these paid opportunities, and the commonwealth has already begun notifying community colleges and other partners about the position opportunities

Insight Global was chosen for their ability to operationalize a large-scale, well-resourced program quickly and efficiently while incorporating diversity and equity in hiring practices, engagement and training of the workforce, and sustainability of the skills developed to create lasting change in the public health and human service workforce.

This will be an additional 1,000 contact tracing staff to the 654 contact tracers across the state currently. This includes community health nurses and the county and local health department, who are primarily responsible for efforts within their own jurisdiction.

The Department of Health is hiring contact tracing field managers and community health nurses to strengthen contact tracing needs throughout the state. Contact tracing filed managers would allow each coordinator to foster relationships with their regional partners and manage contact tracers within their respective region. Community health nurses will assist with COVID-19 case investigations.

Before contact tracers perform their job, a case investigation by a public health professional must be complete. A case investigation is the identification and investigation of patients who are classified as being a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19. Contact tracing is the subsequent verification, monitoring, and support of their contacts who have been exposed to and possibly infected with the virus.

Case investigations, contact tracing efforts, and ongoing monitoring are proven public health strategies to contain the spread of diseases and are necessary to identify any instances of community spread and prevent larger outbreaks.

According to figures released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania added 970 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday. The state has 112,048 cases of the virus since the first case was discovered in March.

The state added 13 souls to the death toll putting the number at 7,189 deaths attributed to COVID-19

Dauphin County added 12 new cases of the virus on Friday while Schuylkill County added five new cases and Northumberland County added one. The current counts of cases in the three counties of the Citizen-Standard coverage area stands with Dauphin County at a total to 2,640 cases with 155 deaths, Schuylkill stands at 880 cases with 49 deaths, and Northumberland County is at 401 cases and 11 deaths.

Compare that to the epicenter of the virus in Philadelphia which added 130 new cases and one death on Friday, putting their totals at 25,664 cases and 1,677 deaths.

With case numbers rising, state health officials say that mask wearing is needed to stem the rising numbers. Mask-wearing is required in all businesses and whenever leaving home. Consistent mask-wearing is critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“As the state has put in place new mitigation efforts to offset recent case increases, we must renew our commitment to protecting against COVID-19 by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and following the requirements set forth in the orders for bars and restaurants, gatherings and telework,” Dr. Levine said. “Pennsylvania has been a model for the country on how to reopen effectively using a careful, measured approach. However, we know the virus has not gone away as we see cases rise, so we must work together to stop another surge.”

In nursing and personal care homes, there are 19,484 resident cases of COVID-19, and 3,934 cases among employees, for a total of 23,418 at 850 distinct facilities in 61 counties. Out of our total deaths, 4,904 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities. Approximately 8,214 of the total cases are in health care workers.

As far as negative tests for each county, Dauphin is listed as having 26,162 negative tests while Schuylkill reported 11,794 negative tests and 6,235 in Northumberland County.

The counties affected and the number of confirmed cases, with the number of deaths in parentheses, are:

Adams-462 (20), Allegheny-8.094 (230), Armstrong-179 (6), Beaver-1,212 (88), Bedford-128 (4), Berks-5,152 (365), Blair-204 (3), Bradford-80 (3), Bucks-6,902 (578), Butler-597 (15), Cambria-250 (3), Cameron-5, Carbon-356 (28), Centre-357 (10), Chester-4,836 (344), Clarion-75 (2), Clearfield-131, Clinton-113 (5), Columbia-457 (35), Crawford-124 (1), Cumberland-1,203 (70), Dauphin-2,640 (155), Delaware-8,669 (685), Elk-43 (2), Erie-923 (16), Fayette-387 (4), Forest-9, Franklin-1,268 (46), Fulton-22 (2), Greene-107, Huntingdon-287 (4), Indiana-256 (6), Jefferson-57 (1), Juniata-125 (6), Lackawanna-1,894 (212), Lancaster-5,525 (406), Lawrence-338 (11), Lebanon-1,563 (54), Lehigh-4,810 (334), Luzerne-3,252 (183), Lycoming-325 (20), McKean-28 (1), Mercer-331 (9), Mifflin-100 (1), Monroe-1,580 (123), Montgomery-9,761 (848), Montour-93 (3), Northampton-3,827 (290), Northumberland-401 (11), Perry-113 (5), Philadelphia-25,664 (1,677), Pike-524 (21), Potter-20, Schuylkill-880 (49), Snyder-93 (2), Somerset-120 (2), Sullivan-10, Susquehanna-209 (26), Tioga-35 (2), Union-132 (2), Venango-62, Warren-15 (1), Washington-740 (11), Wayne-158 (8), Westmoreland-1,409 (46), Wyoming-57 (8), York-2,269 (86).

As of midnight July 30, there have been 1,104,824 negative tests for the coronavirus. The state also said that 75 percent of the confirmed cases have recovered. If a case has not been reported as a death, and it is more than 30 days past the date of their first positive test (or onset of symptoms) then an individual is considered recovered.

What is coronavirus?

According to the Pa. Department of Health, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common throughout the world. These viruses can live in animals and at times, evolve and infect people before spreading through human to human contact.

Human coronaviruses are spread just like the common cold or the flu either through the air through coughing or sneezing, through close personal contact like touching or shaking hands, or by touching an object or surface with the virus on it.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The symptoms can appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after a person is exposed to the illness. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to severe illness and death. As of July 30, the U.S. Center for Disease Control reports there have been 4,405,932 cases of the Coronavirus reported in the U.S. with 150,283 deaths.

What can you do?

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.
  • Clean surfaces frequently.
  • Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.
  • If you must go out, you are required to wear a mask when in a business or where it is difficult to maintain proper social distancing.

The Pa. Department of Health offers these guidelines as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

Stay home as much as possible. Try to get groceries once per week instead of daily. Freedom of travel remains, but please refrain from non-essential travel. Essential travel includes things like commuting to an essential job, picking up supplies like groceries and medicine, and checking on family and pets in other households. Do not host or attend gatherings.