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Stories, Stats, Impacts: Wyoming Public Media is here to keep you current on the news surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

CU Boulder Offers Contact Tracing 101

bob boz

There’s a high demand for contact tracers across the nation. One university in the Mountain West is in the process of training 85 college students to help fill the gap once classes resume in the fall. 

Todd Gleeson, a professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder, and a colleague decided to teach a course in contract tracing when the university started looking at what it would take to reopen, especially in terms of testing and contact tracing.

“It was very clear that the campus had very little resources in this area, as does the county,” he said. “We have a well-educated and very motivated talent pool on campus. And so we were taking advantage of that.”

He said many of the students have also taken courses in physiology, epidemiology and global public health, and that about 20 of them have already completed the coursework. It’s a combination of materials from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Colorado’s state health department, and approved by the county health department. 

Gleeson says they’ll operate, like other contact tracers, “under the umbrella of Boulder County Public Health.” But unlike other contact tracers, the student contact tracers will only investigate cases among other students, not faculty and staff or the general public. Gleeson says should they need more contact tracers, there are already 90 students on the waitlist.

They’ll have the option of either getting course credit for their contact tracing work, or some course credit plus $14 an hour.

The National Association of County and City Health Officials recommends that there should be 30 contact tracers per 100,000 people. 

But as NPR reported Tuesday, some public health experts say that the COVID-19 epidemic in the U.S. has gotten too big to contain using testing, contact tracing and isolating.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2021 KUNC. To see more, visit KUNC.

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Rae Ellen Bichell is a reporter for NPR's Science Desk. She first came to NPR in 2013 as a Kroc fellow and has since reported Web and radio stories on biomedical research, global health, and basic science. She won a 2016 Michael E. DeBakey Journalism Award from the Foundation for Biomedical Research. After graduating from Yale University, she spent two years in Helsinki, Finland, as a freelance reporter and Fulbright grantee.
Rae Ellen Bichell
I cover the Rocky Mountain West, with a focus on land and water management, growth in the expanding west, issues facing the rural west, and western culture and heritage. I joined KUNC in January 2018 as part of a new regional collaboration between stations in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. Please send along your thoughts/ideas/questions!
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