Kansas City hiring contact tracers, a vital step to stop the spread of COVID-19

Tracking Coronavirus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Health experts say stopping the spread involves some detective work.

Contact tracing is the term, and the Kansas City Health Department is ready to hire some of those virus detectives. 

To prevent people from getting the virus, the city is using a new strategy to hire people to trace it.

“The contact tracer is able to tie up those loose ends to make sure everyone is aware of their own health status and is aware of what they need to to to protect themselves and the ones they love,” health department investigator Laura Kresl said.

The city is looking to hire five contact tracers, and Mayor Quinton Lucas said it’s vital to getting the spread under control.

“Contact tracing is really vital to how you stop this,” Lucas said. “The biggest way you can stop any epidemic is to make sure you know who’s got it, and then you get them tested, you get them treated, and you make sure there is no spread.”

The positions are full time for three months and pay $18 per hour. The tracers will have the job of contacting those who may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

“These people will not know who named them, and the people who will be doing the contact tracing will have a great deal of HIPAA responsibility because they can’t give that information, they can’t breech it, or disrupt that trust in any way,” Kresl said.

The city’s 10/10/10 rule asks businesses to voluntarily make lists of people staying in their location longer than 10 minutes. The tracers will work with these lists and lists from patients that are seen at hospitals.

“It’s not about us knocking on your door and stopping anything,” Lucas said. “We’re trying to model good behavior for folks. There’s going to be a lot of compliance that we ask everybody to do voluntarily, no matter what it is. We ask people do that because it’s really concern for your community.”

Kresl said a major issue they are having at the health department is people who contracted COVID-19 not wanting to share where they have been or who they came into contact with.

The department said there are a number of reasons why, including privacy, possible undocumented individuals and people wanting to conceal where they have been to friends or family.

“Unfortunately, we are running into instances where people are refusing to name the people that they have been around,” Kresl said. “So once we know who the person has been around, we need to let everyone else know to monitor their symptoms.”

Lucas said it’s a great way for people to proactively help slow the spread and keep Kansas City moving forward.

“That’s the way as we live with COVID-19 that we’re actually going to find a way to really address it,” Lucas said. “If we didn’t have that, then we would be at a risk of shutting down the economy again, doing any of those calamitous things that I know absolutely nobody, including me, wants.”

If you are interested in learning more about this position or applying yourself, you can put in your application through the city’s employment portal.

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