READING, Pa. - Not far from Kutztown University's campus, which will look to complete some form of in-person classes this semester, 10 senior social work majors are up against their own challenge.
"They're going to be trained to become COVID tracers," said William Bender, a social work instructor at Kutztown University. "This is a great opportunity for students, an introduction to public health."
According to those at Co-County Wellness Services in Reading, confidentiality sits at the core of contact tracing -- and for contact tracers themselves -- their identities are not revealed for their protection.
"The actual tracing takes place virtually," Bender explained. "There's no direct, in-person kind of contact with anybody. Students will learn all kinds of regulations, skills, dealing with privacy, confidentiality."
The challenge for tracers, seated in front of pink packets that contain important information and call scripts, is a great one.
"If you can keep people quarantined when they would have the possibility of contacting COVID-19, you can stop the spread, and that's what's so important," said Barbara Waller, deputy director of Co-County Wellness Services.
Tracers receive limited information from the Pennsylvania Department of Health nurses about positive COVID cases in the state, and then it's their job to inform anyone who may have been in contact with the positive case.
"Please don't refuse," Waller urged. "Please listen to what the contact tracers have to say and please do what we ask if possible, because we are here to support you for other needs that you might have."
Tracers can also help people get access to food and medicine if quarantining is needed.
The program will run thru May.