The Pennsylvania Department of Health is hiring 1,000 additional contract tracers to bolster the state’s efforts to contain coronavirus outbreaks by quickly notifying people who might have been exposed.
The Health Department on Friday announced a $23 million, federally funded contract with Atlanta-based staffing agency Insight Global to recruit, hire and train the new workers, who will join the state’s existing contact-tracing force of more than 650.
The new jobs include full-time and part-time contact tracers and supervisors, with hourly rates ranging from $18 to $24. The Health Department said recruitment will be focused on workers who have been laid off because of the pandemic.
Contact tracers identify people whom COVID-19 patients have been in contact with so they can be tested and isolated.
The Health Department has also said it is seeking to test out a mobile contact-tracing app that automatically notifies people if they might have been exposed to the virus. It relies on Bluetooth wireless technology to detect when someone who downloaded the app has spent time near another app user who later tests positive for the virus.
In other coronavirus-related developments in Pennsylvania on Friday:
The Health Department said 970 more people have tested positive for the virus, with 13 new deaths.
The new case numbers include an increase of 244 in Allegheny County, though 30 of those are from tests conducted more than two weeks ago, health officials said. Philadelphia reported 130 new infections.
The seven-day daily average of new cases rose by about two-thirds in the month of July, according to the COVID Tracking Project, driven primarily by increased spread in counties in the southern half of the state.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 112,000 people have tested positive for the virus, and 7,189 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19. More than two-thirds of the state's deaths have occurred in nursing homes and other facilities that care for older people.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher than the state’s confirmed case count because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.