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Follow the Data Podcast: Training an Army of Contact Tracers

The coronavirus pandemic continues to surge across the country – and contact tracing is one of our best tools to slow the spread.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Bloomberg Philanthropies, together with New York State, launched a free online course in order to train an army of contact tracers to reach and assist people who have been exposed to the virus.

The course, called “COVID-19 Contact Tracing,” was spearheaded by Dr. Emily Gurley, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and teaches the fundamentals of interviewing people diagnosed with COVID-19, finding their close contacts who may have been exposed, and providing them with advice and support for self-quarantine.

Passing the course is a requirement for contact tracers in New York State, though anyone in the world may take the course, whether they are interested in becoming a contact tracer or just want to understand the process. More than 550,000 students have enrolled in the course since it launched in May.

Dr. Emily Gurley joined Kelly Larson from our public health team on June 26th to tell us more about what contact tracing really is and what makes a contact tracer effective, what material is covered in the free COVID-19 Contact Tracing Course, and the role technology plays in fighting COVID-19.

In order to enroll in the free COVID-19 Contact Tracing Course discussed in this episode, please visit

You can listen to the podcast and past episodes in the following ways:

For more from our coronavirus series:

  • On “The Pandemic’s Effect on Gun Violence,” Sarah Burd-Sharps, the Director of Research at Everytown for Gun Safety, shared how her team’s reports help inform policymakers, advocates and experts working on the gun violence crisis and precautions gun owners can take to prevent unintentional shootings during the pandemic.
  • The Data Behind the Pandemic” features Tom Inglesby of the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School for Public Health in conversation with Dr. Kelly Henning of Bloomberg Philanthropies around how states are looking at data to inform school and office reopenings.
  • On “Food First Responders,” World Central Kitchen CEO Nate Mook sat down with Bloomberg Philanthropies Senior Advisor Brynne Craig to discuss how re-opening is shifting the organization’s work to provide meals to those in need during the pandemic.
  • How Helsinki, Finland is Responding to COVID-19” features Mayor Jan Vapaavuori in conversation with Kelly Larson of our public health program about how the city is responding to the coronavirus.
  • Michelle King, co-creator of “The Good Wife” and “The Good Fight,” Brooke Kennedy, executive producer of “The Good Wife” and “The Good Fight,” actress Christine Baranski, actor Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Joseph Benincasa, President and CEO of The Actors Fund, joined the podcast to tell us more about how The Actors Fund is helping people in the performing arts and entertainment industries in need on “Lights, Camera…Action?
  • Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr spoke with public health program lead Dr. Kelly Henning about “How Freetown, Sierra Leone is Responding to COVID-19.”
  • Rose Gill, a Principal at Bloomberg Associates, sat down with Steven Kobre, a Partner at Kobre + Kim, and Jerry DeLoach, the Head of the Cost Recovery team for the City of Atlanta, to discuss the role of monitors in reviewing the use of federal aid funds to support local response and recovery on “The Cost of Recovery for Our Cities, Part 2.”
  • Arturo Casadevall, an infectious disease expert and Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University, spoke with Dr. Jessica Leighton of our public health team about why his team believes that using blood plasma from fully recovered coronavirus patients could boost the immune systems of health care responders and first responders on “A Promising Treatment for COVID-19.”
  • On “Slowing the Spread of COVID-19 in Africa,” Amanda McClelland, the Senior Vice President of Prevent Epidemics and Resolve to Save Lives at Vital Strategies, joined Dr. Jennifer Ellis, who works on our public health program, to discuss how response to the coronavirus has differed from other recent outbreaks and what’s keeping public health professionals hopeful right now.
  • Adam Freed, a Principal at Bloomberg Associates, spoke with Natasha Rogers, the Chief Operating Officer of the City of Newark, and Brad Gair, a Principal with Witt O’Brien’s, a national emergency management consultancy, to discuss how cities can get access to the federal funds they need to operate and recover – and get support from the state and federal government – on “The Cost of Recovery for Our Cities, Part One.”
  • The Intersection of COVID-19 and Transportation” features Janette Sadik-Khan, a Principal at Bloomberg Associates and Chair of NACTO, in conversation with Corinne Kisner, Executive Director of NACTO, and Mark de la Vergne, the Chief of Mobility Innovation for the City of Detroit, about creative actions city transportation officials are taking in response to the pandemic.
  • On “Behind the Scenes of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Tracking Map,” Dr. Josh Sharfstein, Vice Dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Beth Blauer, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, tell us about how the Hopkins COVID-19 interactive map and dashboard was created. This episode was borrowed from “Public Health on Call,” the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health podcast.
  • Sharfstein also joined the podcast to tell us more about how the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is tackling the coronavirus from every angle on “Responding to a Pandemic Crisis.”
  • Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, joined Megan Sheekey, who leads strategic partnerships at Bloomberg Associates, to discuss the role of foundations in supporting social service & cultural organizations during the pandemic on “How to Help Nonprofits Hit Hard by COVID-19.”
  • On “‘World War C’ – Us Against the Microbe,” Dr. Kelly Henning, who leads our public health program, sat down with Dr. Tom Frieden, the President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, and the former director of the CDC, to talk about how we can keep cities running and safe during the pandemic.