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Economy

New York Rolling out Training for COVID-19 Detectives

NEW YORK — New York is poised to launch its training plan for the huge corps of disease detectives it plans to deploy to track people who might have been exposed to the coronavirus.

The effort, seen as a key to keeping the outbreak from flaring again once it is under control, is likely to involve hiring several thousand people who have no background in public health.

And since getting huge groups of people together in once place for a contact-tracing boot camp is impossible, the training will be done through a 5- to 6-hour online course launching Monday.

"There's all this discussion about using technology in some way. But fundamentally, this is a pretty human activity," said Josh Sharfstein of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, which developed the course with Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable foundation of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

When someone becomes newly infected with the virus, the tracers will be tasked with figuring out everyone who might have had contact with that person, reaching out to them, and advising them how to quarantine themselves until they know for certain they aren't sick, too.

The video training includes having actors portray how the tracing interviews, mostly conducted by phone or video chat, are supposed to go.

Sharfstein said the training, to be offered on the Coursera website, will be available to anyone, not just those seeking to become contact tracers, the developers said. 

Bloomberg is putting up $10.5 million through his foundation to help the state roll out its tracing plan.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made hiring at least 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents a requirement for any part of the state to reopen.

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