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Who trains Louisiana's contact tracers? Meet LSU's Stephenson Disaster Management Institute

1 week 4 days 22 hours ago Friday, July 24 2020 Jul 24, 2020 July 24, 2020 8:46 PM July 24, 2020 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Contact tracing is being ramped up across Louisiana as more COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are reported daily.

That means more people are being trained to make calls. But who exactly runs the program that trains new contact tracers?

It’s a group from LSU, including a few students, who developed and manage the training for the entire state’s contact tracing program.

LSU’s Stephenson Disaster Management Institute, or SDMI, was signed to a $1 million contract with the Louisiana Department of Health in May.

“We had experience in call centers and actually running a technical support desk,” Brant Mitchell, the director of SDMI, said.

Since then, the small team of 5 or 6 workers has created specific software for on-boarding new contact tracer employees. The central call centers that facilitate those calls now span over four different locations in three cities within the state.

“It’s kind of self-paced training for each one of the agents that they can follow,” Mitchell said.

Their program and management team has assisted in training an additional 400 workers in just the past three weeks with cases across the state on the rise for the second time.

“We started really seeing a large number of new cases being loaded into the platform on a daily basis, that actually increased our backlog and we started taking the immediate steps to kind of identity which of the call centers that we work with that could expand their staffing levels,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell says, in total, they’re now up to 700 certified and trained contact tracers, which was the original cap for workers in the program set by LDH.

A major focus of that training, Mitchell says, deals with keeping patients’ information safe, especially for contact tracers working remotely.

“We wanted to make sure that they had a good base level for cyber hygiene. And understood some of the risks that operating with your computer, handling phi, and making sure they had some base level, in a way to be able to protect that information,” Mitchell said.

Along with the self-paced training program, the team has developed training videos and a live simulation program for contact tracers to test out before making calls. They’ve also enlisted the help of around 10 LSU students for IT support.

“We’re actually providing technical support for the contact tracing platform, and that entire desk is manned by students that are in computer science at LSU,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell also wants to remind people that contact tracers will not ask for personal or financial information.

Anyone who has tested positive for the virus or has been in close contact with someone who recently tested positive can expect a text from this number, 1-225-396-5385, before receiving a call from this number, 877-766-2130. 

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