Hopewell Township hires COVID-19 contact tracers

Hopewell Township Municipal Building (photo: M. Galioto)

At a special meeting on Friday May 22, the Hopewell Township Committee met virtually and approved the hire of two part-time contact tracers.

Stephanie Carey, Township Health Officer, explained that the Township needs three full-time contact tracers (or the equivalent) in total, which will be filled by a series of part- and full-time employees., By hiring two part-time contact tracers on May 22, the Township is now two-thirds of the way to fulfillment. 

Carey explained earlier this month at a Township meeting that the recommended ratio is one full-time contact tracer for every 6,000 residents. Hopewell Township, with its population of almost 18,000, needs three contact tracers. These tracers, once hired, will interview every sick person, issue isolation orders, identify every person that the sick person might have exposed to the virus, and then quarantine those people for two weeks. If a quarantined person gets sick, then then their contacts get traced, and so on. For more, see Hopewell Township Committee Gets COVID Update, Talks Taxes.

“We are hoping we’re still on the front-end of the hiring curve and I’m thrilled we’re able to do this today,” said Mayor Kristin McLaughlin. 

“We conducted a series of interviews for emergency contact tracing hires so we can continue our work fighting COVID-19 and make sure everyone is safe,” said Committee member Julie Blake, who also serves as the Committee’s liaison to the Health Department. “We’ve done an internal search and will probably do an external search too.”

At the meeting, MercerMe asked about the internal hiring process and the relationship between the Township Administrator, Elaine Borges, and a contact tracer with the same last name. Blake responded: “We are looking for contact tracers and we want the best people possible. This is an emergent process so we can hire internally — so anyone who knows anyone can apply. If there is a relationship within a family, they were not involved in the hiring process. [Carey] and I did the interviewing and interviewed a few people and hired most of them.” 

The Township continues to interview potential contact tracers who should ideally have a health education background and are detail oriented, with good listening skills, and can report confidentially, said Blake.

Carey also talked about how residents can know if a person is a legitimate contact tracer or a potential scam? “A contract tracer will never ask for your social security number, never ask for any banking or credit card info, and never ask for fees or monetary items. Contact tracers will want to know things like physical locations — who you have been with and where you have been,” said Carey. “If you get a call from someone you don’t know — whether you believe them or not — you can call the Township municipal building to verify contact tracer identity. We will never ask for any financial, banking or social security number but will ask for personal identifiers like date of birth.”

The Township Committee meeting for this week has been cancelled. The next meeting scheduled is for Monday, June 8, 2020 at 7pm.

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