FLORIDA — During a press conference on May 6 in Miami, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees described the state’s contact tracing efforts.
“This is a way we’re going to actually stop the cycle and transmission from person to person,” he said.
Today, as the number of COVID-19 cases is on the rise, Florida Department of Health (FDOH) spokesperson Alberto Moscoso described the state’s contact tracing program as a “vital component of any epidemiological investigation” Moscoso went on to state in an email that the department now employs “more than 1,500 individuals including students, epidemiologists and other staff,” who are working to trace every case of COVID-19 in Florida. One month ago the number was 1,100.
National experts advise the state should have 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 people. Under that equation, Florida would be 5,000 contact tracers short.
Across the country, we found when it comes to tracing the disease from person to person, some states are continuing to expand efforts.
Massachusetts has roughly 50,000 more COVID-19 cases than Florida but a smaller population. Yet the state has double the amount of contact tracers.
In California, the number of COVID-19 cases reported has surpassed 130,000 — twice Florida’s current count, but the state is working towards recruiting 20,000 contact tracers by the time it enters phase 2 of its reopening plan.
Despite most of Florida already entering phase 2 and weeks of large gatherings and protests prompting concerns about another COVID-19 surge, the FDOH maintains that it is “successfully meeting the current operational demand.” However details of what that means remain largely unknown.
Ilene Rand of Orlando and Ruth Fader of Boca Raton are trying to join in on efforts to stop the virus’ spread by becoming contact tracers.
Fader, who is retired, recently completed an online course on contact tracing through John Hopkins University. She even has a certificate to show for it but she has yet to find any jobs posted in Florida.
“I was not able to get through to anybody. I hit a wall,” when asked if she contacted the local and state health department which employs contact tracers for Florida. “I came up zero on that. I even called different representatives.”
Ilene Rand is currently taking the John Hopkins course and has not found any job postings for contact tracers in the state. She sent her resume to a staffing agency that claims it’s compiling lists for when Florida decides to expand its contact tracing program.
Contrace.org is a national organization that helps local and state departments recruit contact tracers. In an email, founder and CEO Steve Waters said, “at the moment we’re not exactly sure what is happening with contact tracing in FL. There is little transparency to the state program.”
A state program that claims it’s “prepared to further expand if necessary” and we found a few people ready to expand with it.
“I’m ready, willing and able,” said Ruth Fader.