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State and local governments are hiring contact tracers to contain the spread of novel coronavirus.
- Demand for coronavirus contact tracers has made it one of the fastest-growing jobs in the United States.
- Contact tracers reach out to people who may have been infected with the virus. They answer questions, provide information, and encourage people to stay home.
- Though contact tracing is not new, states and counties hoping to reopen will need a strong workforce to stave off a COVID-19 resurgence.
April saw the U.S. economy in a shambolic nose dive. The unemployment rate rose to a near-historic 14.7 percent, with more than 20 million people filing claims. After adding 2.5 million jobs in May, the economy enjoyed a slight comeback—although the current unemployment rate of 13.3 percent remains higher than any time since 1948.
For those furloughed in the pandemic, these statistics may tender some hope. Shuttered companies are reopening and recruiting, while industries that saw a boom amid pandemic-induced demand continue to hire. LinkedIn data shows that 1.5 million entry-level jobs are currently available in the United States. If we can fend off a coronavirus resurgence—big if—the upturn may continue.
To manage that, however, we'll need to be better prepared to test for coronavirus and trace its transmission. That's why many state and local governments are hiring contact tracers.
Tracing COVID-19's path
Contact tracers help stop the spread of a disease by contacting those who may be infected and not know it.
In an interview with ProPublica, Dr. Emily Gurley, an associate scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, described a contact tracer's role as "part disease detective, part social work, part therapist."
The work starts with a case investigator and a patient confirmed, or suspected, to have COVID-19. The case investigator works to develop a timeline of people whom the patient had contact with before symptoms appeared. The timeline creates a list of contacts that is handed off to a contact tracer.
The tracer locates the contacts to inform them they may have been infected with coronavirus (for privacy, a patient's name and particulars are never provided). The tracer offers information, answers questions, and points to helpful resources. They then encourage the contact to stay home voluntarily and maintain social distance for fourteen days after the last potential exposure.
"The real advantage of contact tracing is to snuff out emerging or reemerging transmission cycles," Sten Vermund, dean of Yale's School of Public Health, told STAT. "To blunt the severity of the epidemic on the upsurge … that is a great time to do contact tracing."
Employing contact tracers helps state and local governments to prevent an upsurge without resorting to more drastic measures. As noted by STAT, focusing on known cases lowers associated economic costs but can miss hidden spreaders. Conversely, lock downs can limit transmission but impose high costs. Contact tracing offers the "effective middle ground."
Of course, not everyone is happy to be called out of the blue, told they may have contracted coronavirus, and asked to put their life on hold for two weeks. Emotions can range from scared to angry to confused.
This is where the "part social work, part therapist" enters. Contact tracers need to be empathetic, have excellent communication skills, and be comfortable talking and listening about medical and personal issues. It's not a job for everyone, but the right people in the role can make all the difference.
A novel demand
Contact tracing isn't new. It was used in both the 2003 SARS outbreak and the 2014 Ebola outbreak. It's employed to prevent the transmission of STIs and communicable diseases such as measles and tuberculosis, and even foodborne illnesses.
In fact, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) recommends 15 professionals per 100,000 citizens to be involved in contact tracing during non-emergency situations. But COVID-19 creates a problem of scale.
Many people with COVID-19 aren't aware they have it. They may be asymptomatic or misidentify their symptoms. There's also much we don't know, and human nature, which abhors a vacuum, fills that space with misinformation. The result is a virus that spreads rapidly while leaving an obscure trail to follow.
Because of this, states and counties will need contact tracers to prevent a second outbreak, while those hoping to reopen will need them to limit new cases. NACCHO estimates the U.S. will need twice as many professionals, or 30 professionals per 100,000. That amounts to a nationwide force of roughly 100,000 contact workers. Former CDC Director Tom Friedman estimates that number would need to be closer to 300,000.
Become a contact tracer
Requirements vary state by state. Some require no more than a high school diploma, while others may request more specific training or degrees. But don't think that means you need previous experience in public health or social work.
"The biggest misconception about contact tracing is that you need to have public health training or experience," Christiana Coyle, a professor at New York University's School of Global Public Health and a former contact tracer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNBC.
Coyle continued: "It's more important that you're comfortable with medical terminology, working through a script and cold-calling people. For me, cold-calling was the hardest part. You're giving people news that's potentially very disturbing and serious. You never know what you'll encounter on the other end of the phone."
Hiring approaches also differ. Some states have outsourced to nonprofits, while others have positioned otherwise furloughed health care professionals. If you are interested in contact-tracing work, we recommend starting your search with an official state job board. You can google for listings in your area, but be wary of fraudulent job postings.
It will be sometime before we know if the economy has found a new normal. Until then, contact tracing will not only help us stabilize our hard-earned reprieve from novel coronavirus but provide some stability for households across the country.
There are ways to engage with someone with whom you don't agree.
- When you have pre-conceived ideas about a group whose views oppose your own, you risk closing the door to meaningful discourse before it begins.
- "When you demonize those who voted against you then there's no chance of a democratic debate," argues Yanis Varoufakis, former finance minister of Greece and founder of DiEM25. "You've lost it completely. Then you go into a state of civil war."
- Varoufakis says that there are two ways of approaching a difference of opinion: external and internal critiques. Focusing on internal critiques as the more fruitful method, Varoufakis explains how using logic to work through one's assumptions to see if they lead to the same conclusions can open up a pathway to conversation.
Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods find a greater foothold in the market as demand for plant-based meats rises.
Where's the beef?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzI2NDEzOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzA3MTI3Nn0.4iJJr5OUv0Hx-WC1rxPzoSk4zCMyMlGGBAK1VjlNzMM/img.jpg?width=980" id="a36a7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6641198555a5cfb434656e86aeae3248" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The Smithfield Foods pork processing plant, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was closed indefinitely after its workers caught and spread the coronavirus.
The plant-based industry takes root<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzI2NDE0NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5ODEwNjEzOH0.nMlZXJAI1qRCf_m2pEOYLlWEbnIW9Ed6Wv75DvK1ESk/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C895&height=700" id="a6960" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="19055729ecdfb6cd5f0b50330e629043" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Beyond Meat's plant-based patties on store shelves at Costco.
Will Beyond Meat go, well, beyond meat?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="ClRRdKXm" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="24ebdf58c2c4cfb04f42281bd59f8382"> <div id="botr_ClRRdKXm_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/ClRRdKXm-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/ClRRdKXm-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/ClRRdKXm-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>Will the pandemic shift America away from meat and toward <a href="https://bigthink.com/natalie-shoemaker/what-the-world-would-look-like-in-2050-if-we-ate-less-meat" target="_self">more sustainable alternatives</a>? Probably not. At least not any time soon.</p><p>A <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2016/12/01/public-views-about-americans-eating-habits/" target="_blank">Pew Research Center</a> found that only 9 percent of Americans consider themselves vegan or vegetarian, meaning 298 million of us can enjoy a juicy burger. That's a lot of hearts and minds, and shifts in cultural eating habits can be geologic in their timeline. But it may prove <a href="https://bigthink.com/technology-innovation/livestock-disruption" target="_self">a tipping point</a>. </p><p>Both <a href="https://impossiblefoods.com/mission/" target="_blank">Impossible Foods</a> and <a href="https://www.beyondmeat.com/about/" target="_blank">Beyond Meat</a> list limiting suffering and sustainability on their mission statements, and their products do sport <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/02/beyond-meat-uses-climate-change-to-market-fake-meat-substitutes-scientists-are-cautious.html" target="_blank">a reduced carbon footprint</a> compared to meat—though higher than other vegetarian alternatives such as bean patties.</p><p>Those values are in line with younger generations and <a href="https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2015/green-generation-millennials-say-sustainability-is-a-shopping-priority/" target="_blank">their shopping habits</a>. It's also no coincidence that Pew found young people the most likely to identify as vegan or vegetarian, while other research has shown the cohort to be the <a href="https://www.globaldata.com/millennials-are-the-most-experimental-consumers-with-seniors-least-likely-to-try-new-products/" target="_blank">most experimental in their shopping</a>.</p><p>"People don't like to be contributing to climate change and biodiversity collapse and pandemics. It feels icky, so we try not to talk about it," Rachel Konrad, Impossible Foods' COO, <a href="https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2020/5/5/21247286/plant-based-meat-coronavirus-pandemic-impossible-burger-beyond" target="_blank">told <em>Vox</em></a>. "But it's in these moments when the gruesome reality of animal agriculture pierces into our consciousness—because of COVID or whatever else—that we start to wake up."</p>
Ad Fontes Media wants to educate readers on where to find reliable sources of news and lessen the heat from the political flame wars.
- Polarized, unreliable news can be dangerous during turbulent times, such as the coronavirus pandemic.
- The Ad Fontes' Media Bias Chart maps out the biases and reliability of legacy and alternative news organizations.
- Political bias is one of many we must be wary of when judging the quality of the news we consume.
Creating the Media Bias Chart<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkxMTE4OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5NDA5MDg1M30.KxLK18-rVNmng-hxtwb2kSSBR3A83EVU8-QJZE4O0TY/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C169%2C0%2C169&height=700" id="2fb58" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5fdd0adc71de8f73fe68d4116eb7b4d9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The extreme bias and partisanship of the 2016 election led Vanessa Otero to create the first Media Bias Chart.
Triangulating the news landscape<a href="https://www.bigthinkedge.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Media-Bias-Chart-5.1-Licensed-scaled.jpg" ><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkxMTk0Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNDIxNjc1OH0.inOVdlCHsKqE1DDoul-9ddyUwhryW1-_b_YnNrFeE24/img.jpg?width=980" id="22342" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6383326fa3e3a524255882c7c1ad16e4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /></a>
Click on the image to zoom in and get a better view. The Media Bias Chart, version 5.1, charts reliability and bias in about 90 popular news sources.(Photo: Ad Fontes Media)<p>The chart splays a cavalcade of news media logos across its grid to form a giant triangle. At the top-middle stands the news sources that are balanced and highly reliable. As we slide down <a href="https://bigthink.com/age-of-engagement/the-psychology-of-why-the-left-the-right-even-scientists-believe-in-media-bias" target="_blank">the left and right sides</a>, we fall deeper into the realm of partisanship and mudslinging.</p><p>The chart's y-axis measures reliability on a scale of 0–64. According to the Ad Fontes website, a reliability score of 24 or higher is considered acceptable, while a score of 32 or higher represents good reliability. </p><p>The chart's x-axis measures from -42 to 42. Scores closer to zero equate to neutral, balanced views. The more a news organization shows a conservative bent, the more their score pushes right of zero, maxing out at 42. The more a news organization shows a progressive bent, the more their score pushes left of zero, maxing out at -42. </p><p>For those fuming that progressive news is measured by "negative" numbers while the right is seen as "positive," chill! That's just how x-axes work.</p>
Who is the fairest (and most balanced) of them all?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkxMTE5NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MjU1NjI1N30.Qo1QT1e6RAd0lqEv9_RQeiNm3Jh5W9zYDBnxV-wqSmE/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C51%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="1ceef" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a211224743eef78eff2d86a2cf9032e0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="John Daniszewski of Associated Press and Kirill Kleymenov interview Vladimir Putin" />
John Daniszewski, vice president and editor at large for standards of the Associated Press, and Kirill Kleymenov interview Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013.
Making better news choices<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="czxJ0ct2" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="be9e8c9ef4b28ccf7a4009d0dc535822"> <div id="botr_czxJ0ct2_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/czxJ0ct2-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/czxJ0ct2-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/czxJ0ct2-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The Media Bias Chart provides an easy way to digest an otherwise complex media landscape. The website also rates weekly articles, so readers can examine how different news sources spin the major story of the day.</p><p>However, it is only one tool that looks toward a particular bias spectrum in our media. There are more. <em>New York Times</em> columnist David Leonhardt identifies <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/31/opinion/media-bias-howard-schultz.html" target="_blank">six forms of media bias</a>. In addition to the right and left political biases, he showcases the centrist bias (both sides must always be equal in blame regardless of the circumstances), the affluent bias (national journalist tend to be more affluent than the average), the newness bias (events that are new seem more important), and social biases (sexism, racism, ageism, and so on).</p><p>To detect bias and skewed information, <a href="https://fair.org/take-action-now/media-activism-kit/how-to-detect-bias-in-news-media/" target="_blank">the media watch group FAIR</a> (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) recommends asking following questions of news content and the sources containing them:</p> <ul><li>Who are the sources?</li><li>Is there a lack of diversity?</li><li>From whose point of view is the news reported?</li><li>Are there double standards?</li><li>Do stereotypes skew coverage?</li><li>What are the unchallenged assumptions?</li><li>Is the language loaded?</li><li>Is there a lack of context?</li><li>Do the headlines and stories match?</li><li>Are stories on important issues featured prominently?</li></ul> <p>We can't afford to digest news with passive acceptance. Like Otero, we need to develop personal methodologies for analyzing a source's reliability and distrust for biases, especially those that make us feel that <a href="https://bigthink.com/videos/heidi-grant-halvorson-on-first-impressions" target="_blank">twinge of personal satisfaction</a>.</p>
The photos may not be fake, but the context is.
When you think of visual misinformation, maybe you think of deepfakes – videos that appear real but have actually been created using powerful video editing algorithms.