College of DuPage Launches Contact Tracer Training Program to Track Spread of COVID-19

By: Angela Mennecke

A student working on her laptop

Responding to the call for trained workers to help limit the spread of COVID-19, College of DuPage launched a Contact Tracer Training program on June 29. Offered through COD’s Continuing Education Department and in consultation with the DuPage County Health Department, the four-week, online course trains participants to connect with individuals diagnosed with COVID–19 and identify those with whom they have come into contact.

Due to the high level of interest, program sessions were full in less than 24 hours after registration opened, said COD Continuing Education Program Manager Lorelie Garcia.

“The more than 150 students participating in the program are not only from COD’s in-district community, but students are registered from all over the nation,” she said. “We went from offering only a few sections of the class to now offering nine to meet the demand. If needed, we have the capacity to open more sections.”

College of DuPage Assistant Vice President of Economic Development and Dean of Continuing Education and Public Services Joe Cassidy said the Center for Disease Control (CDC) emphasizes that contact tracing is key to slowing or stopping the spread of COVID-19 without large-scale shutdowns.

“We see it as our duty to develop programs and services to do our part in slowing this virus,” he said. “We are happy to work with full-time faculty and DuPage County Health Department staff to bring this critically needed program forward. This focuses on epidemiology; signs and symptoms; why contact tracing is an effective public health intervention. It also concentrates on contact tracing techniques and ethical considerations, including HIPPA regulations; as well as cultural sensitivities and inequities among certain population groups.”

In addition to the public health benefit, the program also creates employment opportunities for individuals who have been financially impacted by the crisis. A recent report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health and Security estimates that the U.S. needs to hire at least 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 state residents to help limit the spread of the coronavirus and start to reopen the economy. Contact tracers can earn up to $28 per hour.

Brenda Willimann registered for the contact tracing program to do her part in stopping the spread of the virus.

“After hearing about the critical need for contact tracers, I tried to find a local program to participate in, but I live in a small town in Illinois where no classes were offered,” she said. “You don’t have to live local to take the class at COD, so I jumped at the opportunity. I want to do my part to help stop the spread of the virus and becoming a contact tracer is one way I can help.”

College of DuPage President Dr. Brian Caputo said that through this critical program, COD is not only able to help in slowing the virus, but also meet the needs of the local workforce.

“This course is one of the many ways that College of DuPage is stepping up to quickly respond to the workforce needs in the region,” he said. “We are grateful that we have such amazing community partners, like the DuPage County Health Department, who will play a key role in this challenging, but informative process.”

The College of DuPage Contact Tracing Training program is a noncredit program and students will receive a pass or fail grade. Students must be at least 18 years of age, possess a high school diploma or equivalency and have a general proficiency in and access to technology. Scholarships and other tuition assistance are available through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funding and a grant from the COD Foundation.

The next session begins on Aug. 3. To learn more and to register, visit https://cod.edu/contact-tracer. For further questions, call (630) 942-2208 or email CE@cod.edu.