Public health officials have often lauded contact tracing as an integral weapon in the fight against the coronavirus.
Contact tracers interview people with infectious diseases and identify anyone they may have been in contact with in hopes of slowing the spread, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The need for qualified contact tracers has intensified as cases of COVID-19 in Florida surpassed 282,000 in recent days.
To fill the void, Miami Dade College is offering a free four-hour contact tracing certification class.
The virtual course— MDC PROTECTS (PROactive Training and Education for Contact Tracing and Support—paid for by the MDC Foundation launched on May 28.
A class scheduled for July 18 that accommodates 70 students was recently filled, and a session in Spanish will take place on Aug. 5 at 1 p.m. Additional classes might be added in September.
“Our knowledge of the population in South Florida, coupled with the expertise of our faculty, has produced a program rich in content and role-playing exercises that prepare completers to effectively face the challenges of contact tracing for COVID-19,” said Vice Provost for Academic Schools Oscar Loynaz.
More than 100 students have taken the class since it was developed at the request of Executive Vice President and Provost Lenore Rodicio in May, Loynaz said. Contact tracers can earn between $17-22 in Miami, according to KariER.co.
“I think it allows our students to be more employable and say: ‘I have this on my resume, I’ve done contact tracing. I’ve done other things,’” said Medical Campus President Bryan Stewart.
Three Medical Campus professors—Dadilia Garces Mejia, Marta Lopez and Donna Fishkin—designed the curriculum to launch the class.
The course is divided into three sections—what the virus is, how to be an effective contact tracer and ends with a series of simulations to help students grasp the information.
The first part gives an overview of the virus: how people contract it, how it attacks the body and its symptoms.
Lopez then goes over the Florida Department of Health’s contact tracing guidelines for tracking cases, and contacting people that are or may be infected.
“The more contact tracing we have, the more we can get this under control,” Lopez said. “Because once a person knows [what to do] when they come into contact with someone who is sick and they’re educated, then we can really put a stop to this virus.”
The final step features the professors guiding students through two role-playing activities to teach them how to manage cooperative and uncooperative patients.
MDC is developing plans with CareerSource South Florida—an employment search tool—to find jobs for students who have completed the class. There are also plans to create a class in Haitian Creole.
“We’re going to resolve the coronavirus by finding out where [infected] people are going and who they’re in contact with,” Stewart said. “It makes sense for the Medical Campus to come up with this program.”
To register for the Aug. 5 class in Spanish, click here.