The Fairfax Health District has brought on close to 150 staff to help with contact tracing since June, with dozens more to be added in coming weeks in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. But with the need to fill approximately 400 positions, more Fairfax County residents are being encouraged to apply.
“Although we’ve had good response to our recruitment efforts so far, we would like to see more local residents in our applicant pool,” said Fairfax Health Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu. “For contact tracing to be most effective, we need people who know the community well and can translate that knowledge in ways that can connect with people from diverse backgrounds.”
Contact tracing involves finding people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and providing guidance to prevent them from spreading it. Contact tracing is one of many trusted public health tools used to prevent further spread of contagious diseases. It has long been used for other contagious diseases like measles and tuberculosis (TB). Currently, contact tracing is one important part of how Fairfax can “box in the virus.”
In the early weeks of the pandemic, the health district focused its contact tracing efforts on cases in high-risk exposure areas like long-term care facilities and other health care settings. But in anticipation of an increase in cases as Virginia’s phased reopening continues, the health district has worked to expand its contact tracing outreach.
Earlier this summer, Fairfax County Health Department partnered with the Institute for Public Health Innovation (IPHI) to expand its workforce of contact tracers, case investigators and community health workers. These staff will be employees of IPHI and will be deployed to assist with the Health Department’s contact tracing operation. IPHI is actively seeking individuals with diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds to help share and reinforce important health messages.
Information on available opportunities and how to apply can be found on the IPHI careers page of their website. Candidates must be willing to work onsite at locations designated by the Health Department, where necessary precautions will be taken to help ensure a safe work environment. Candidates must be proficient in the use of mobile phones, tablets, and Microsoft Office applications.
Staff hired by IPHI for this work are receiving extensive training in infectious disease investigation to prepare them to do this critical work. All new hires participate in a week-long virtual training with IPHI prior to joining the Health Department for additional in-person training and onboarding.
Staff learn how contact tracing is done, including how to build rapport with cases, identify their contacts, and support both cases and their contacts to stop transmission in their communities. The training covers several important ethical considerations around contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine, in addition to some of the most common barriers to contact tracing efforts and strategies to overcome them.
“We believe that this training can provide critical learning to strengthen staff capabilities and competencies in communicable disease investigation and surveillance,” said Dr. Addo-Ayensu. “It also provides staff with a solid foundation for understanding the work currently underway with the COVID-19 response and prepares them to serve our diverse communities.”
Contact tracers provide individuals with guidance on how to isolate or monitor for symptoms and refer those who develop symptoms for medical evaluation and testing to help contain the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Contact tracers will never ask about someone's social security number, immigration status or banking information. Calls from contract tracers will have the caller ID “VDH COVID Team.”
For more information, please visit the contact investigations page on the Fairfax County Health Department website.
The Institute for Public Health Innovation is the official public health institute serving the DC-MD-VA region and one of over 40 such institutes across the country. IPHI develops multi-sector partnerships and innovative solutions to improve the public’s health and well-being in the region. IPHI’s work strengthens health systems and policy, enhances conditions that promote health, and builds government and community capacity to ensure equitable health opportunities for all. Information on these positions and how to apply can be found on the IPHI careers page of their website. Please note that these positions will be employed by IPHI, a contractor to the county.
This is a rapidly changing situation, and information is being shared as it becomes available.
- Visit the Health Department COVID-19 page
- Visit the Fairfax County COVID-19 page
- Text FFXCOVID to 888777 to receive updates from Fairfax County about COVID-19; text FFXCOVIDESP to 888777 for updates in Spanish
- Follow the Fairfax County Government Facebook Page and Health Department Facebook Page
- Follow @fairfaxcounty and @fairfaxhealth on Twitter