NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ -- Rutgers University has partnered with the NJ Department of Health to launch the Community Contact Tracing Corps Program, a key step toward slowing the community spread of COVID-19 as the state begins to ease its social distancing guidelines. 

Part of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, the Rutgers School of Public Health is preparing a contact tracing workforce that will initially include students studying public health, social work, and related fields at Rutgers and other colleges and universities. With tools developed by Rutgers, New Jersey seeks to train at least 1,000 contact tracers and possibly more, if needed.

Through contact tracing, interviewers will speak with people thought to have contracted a contagious disease to determine whom they may have contacted before and after becoming infected in order to mitigate the chain of transmission. The corps will be composed of Rutgers School of Public Health graduate students and alumni initially and will grow through collaborations with other schools.

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Local health departments that regularly trace for infectious diseases like Hepatitis A have been overwhelmed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Once trained, the Community Contact Tracing Corps will support health departments by conducting in-depth interviews with people who have been infected and any close contacts.

“The New Jersey COVID-19 Contact Tracing Program is another tool in our collective fight against COVID-19,” said Perry N. Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health. “The initiative, intelligently designed from a public health, educational and economic perspective, relies on Rutgers School of Public Health graduate students and alumni, along with other Rutgers and New Jersey higher education collaborators, to serve the communities in which they live, work and play.”

Halkitis said the School of Public Health will create a prototype to train and help deploy these contact tracers that other states and departments of health may look to as a model.

“Contact tracers are a key part of the state’s effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 and continue to move forward on the road to recovery,” said New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “With the collaboration of Rutgers School of Public Health, we are developing a culturally competent training curriculum and working to build a strong community contact tracing corps to help keep New Jersey residents safe.”

Anyone interested in becoming part of the Community Contact Tracing Corps can register here.