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Thousands of Utahns unexpectedly finding work as contact tracers

The coronavirus pandemic continues to have a major impact on the nationwide job market. As it turns out, in addition to shutting down plenty of work, it also is creating some new jobs. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The coronavirus pandemic continues to have a major impact on the nationwide job market. As it turns out, in addition to shutting down plenty of work, it also is creating some new jobs. In fact, there are thousands of people in Utah working a job they never expected when the year started.

Now hiring contact tracers

Lee Cherie Booth is with the Salt Lake Valley Health Department. She says her and other tracers are given a list everyday of people who test positive for the coronavirus. It’s their job to get in touch with them in 24 or 48 hours.

“We talk to them about how their systems are,” she explains. “[We ask] what sort of symptoms they have [and] educate them.”

For those that are symptomatic, the isolation period of staying indoors and away from others must last at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms. On top of that, they need an additional three days with no signs of fever or reliance on medication.

A different timeline

For asymptomatic cases, the whole process can be much longer. That’s because the length of their isolation depends on when they last were exposed to someone with the virus. Meaning their 14 days of isolation doesn’t even technically start until that last sick person they were exposed to is well again. Meaning their time spent isolating adds up pretty quickly.

“It can be twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three or so days,” says Booth.

As one can imagine, telling a stranger over-the-phone they need to stay inside their homes for upwards of potentially three weeks, doesn’t always elicit the most positive reactions.

“Some individuals are upset with this whole thing,” she explains. “They can be angry.”

For now, she and the other contact tracers at Salt Lake Valley Health are plenty busy. They typically are working 6 days a week and 9 or 10 hour days. Nonetheless, Booth isn’t complaining, she calls it important work that she’s happy to do.


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