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The University of Hawaiʻi System-Hawaiʻi State Department of Health (DOH) Contact Tracing Training Program kicks off its first cohort of trainees on Monday, June 8. The first pilot group will have 16 trainees in a free, online one-and-a-half day training for clinical healthcare professionals.

The program as a whole expects to train 320 contact tracers by mid-July 2020 as well as hundreds more in the next year. All training slots for clinical healthcare professionals have been filled, with a waiting list of participants.

Contact tracing is an important component of controlling the spread of COVID-19. The federally-funded UH-DOH program, announced May 13, will help to provide a trained cohort of individuals that can support the existing public health workforce in Hawaiʻi should there be a surge in cases as restrictions are lifted and the state resumes economic activities.

Approximately 1,200 people have applied for the broader UH-DOH Contact Tracing Training Program, which has multiple training arms. “We greatly appreciate the positive response we’ve received for this program so far,” said Aimee Grace, UH program lead and director of the UHealthy Hawaiʻi Initiative. “We’re really grateful to be part of a community that rallies so much to help the state in the face of COVID-19.”

Health experts from multiple UH campuses participating

Track 1 of the program was developed jointly by UH Mānoa’s School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene and the DOH. It is an accelerated, one-and-a-half day training course for clinical healthcare professionals who have both an undergraduate degree and a clinical health background: registered nurse, nurse practitioner, social worker, pharmacist, physician or physician assistant.

Track 2 is a six-week training course being led by UH West Oʻahu for those with undergraduate degrees but without clinical backgrounds.

Under the DOH-UH Contact Tracing Training Program, the UH Community Colleges (led by Kapiolani Community College) will also provide expanded community health worker training, beginning in the fall. Community health workers are needed to help reach and support high-risk communities and work with contact tracers to manage disease outbreaks in those communities.

“As the state of Hawaiʻi reopens, we need to be prepared for any potential increase of COVID-19 cases by ensuring that we have trained contact tracers who can quickly identify and facilitate isolating those who are sick and/or exposed to someone with COVID-19,” said Hawaiʻi U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz. “The DOH-UH Contact Tracing Training Program will play an essential role in ramping up this critical workforce capacity.”

Program details

UH has developed the coursework with collaborative input from the DOH. Those who complete the training program are invited to join the DOH’s Medical Reserve Corps (volunteer pool). If there is a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in Hawaiʻi beyond the contact tracing capacity of the DOH, those who complete the program may be asked to serve as contact tracers for the state. Completing the training program does not guarantee employment.

Track 1 training is full and no more applications are being accepted. Track 2 contract tracing training is open to those with undergraduate degrees (health career-oriented preferred). Community Health Worker (CHW) training is open to all with a high school degree or GED.

Those interested in more information about Track 2 or CHW training may sign up online or email specific questions. Neighbor island residents are encouraged to sign up for more information.

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