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Who Wants to Be a Contact Tracer?

To reopen, the U.S. needs to quickly train and deploy thousands of people to track potential Covid-19 infections — because technology alone can’t do the job.
The U.K.'s National Health Service is testing a coronavirus contact tracing app on the Isle of Wight. The U.S. could need 100,000 or more human tracers to help control infection rates and allow local economies to return to work.
The U.K.'s National Health Service is testing a coronavirus contact tracing app on the Isle of Wight. The U.S. could need 100,000 or more human tracers to help control infection rates and allow local economies to return to work.Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images

It starts with a phone call. You may have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus, a kind-sounding voice tells you: You should self-isolate and get tested for Covid-19, if possible. The caller is careful not to reveal the identity of the infected individual you’ve crossed paths with; if they’re good at their job, they’re sensitive both to your fears and the others’ privacy.

The voice on the line is a contact tracer — a person trained to track down and notify all the people who might have been exposed to coronavirus by someone who’s known to have the infection.