RIDOH hiring 100 more contact tracers

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — With record high numbers of new cases, and more contacts connected to those cases, the Rhode Island Department of Health is looking to hire 100 new contact tracers.

“We’re really trying to build out our capacity in terms of the volume we’re seeing now,” said Joseph Wendelken of RIDOH. “But we really need people to do their part, work with us and partner with us to make this a success.”

Despite recent examples of people not finding out about possible exposure for several days, he says that on average, RIDOH reaches about two-thirds of a person’s contacts within 24 hours.

But rarely they aren’t able to get a hold of someone

“People sometimes just don’t answer the phone, which is a challenge,” Wendelken said. “We’re persistent, and we try and we try, and often we‘ll get people on the second or third try, but that’s time-consuming.”

Another challenge? People lashing out at contact tracers.

“The level of aggression that our contact tracers are receiving in the past couple of weeks just because they’re trying to do their job is not okay,” Governor Raimondo said at her press briefing Wednesday. “This is tough stuff and I hear that. But our ability to deliver for you, the people of Rhode Island, depends on everyone’s willingness to engage, stay calm, be kind, and follow the rules.”

Despite hard work, long hours, and potential for mistreatment from the public, Wendelken says contact tracing is still rewarding.

“There’s a value in that, in being able to help someone be healthy and safe – that person and their family,” he said.

Wendelken says people with health or customer service experience are ideal contact tracers, and the health department hopes to train the new hires as soon as possible.


Categories: Coronavirus, News, Rhode Island