Public health workforce

A checklist for establishing a scaled-up public health workforce for COVID-19 contact tracing.


1. Staffing needs and resources

  • Estimate staffing needs and resources for scaled contact tracing.

  • 1.a Core contact tracing staff

    • Case Investigators

    • Contact Tracers

    • Contact Tracing Team Leads

Important parameters to consider:

  • Number of staff needed for case investigation. This includes: locating and interviewing cases; determining infectious period; eliciting contacts; providing instructions for isolation; referring to social/medical services.

  • Number of staff needed for contact notification. This includes: notifying contacts about exposure; providing instructions about quarantine; referral for testing; referral for social/medical/human services.

  • Number of staff needed for case and contact follow-up. This includes: daily check-in; responding to questions; referral to services.

  • Number of staff needed to supervise/manage the contact tracing staff.

  • Consider current and projected needs; to ensure staffing will meet needs throughout the local epidemic, use upper estimates.

  • 1.b Additional workforce needs

    • Program Manager

    • Cluster Outbreak Investigators/Field Epidemiologists

    • Social Supports/Care Resource Managers

    • Data/Information Technology Managers

    • Isolation and Self-Quarantine Monitors

    • High-Risk Medical Monitors

    • Clinical Consultants

    • “Runners” to deliver care package materials

Cluster and outbreak investigation workforce estimation:

  • Estimate number of clusters or outbreaks that may need to be investigated and controlled simultaneously.

    • Consider current and projected needs; to ensure staffing will meet needs throughout the local epidemic, use upper estimates.

  • Estimate the number of staff needed to investigate and control clusters and outbreaks.

    • Multiply the expected number of clusters or outbreaks needing simultaneous investigation and control by the number of investigators per team (for example, three people per investigation team).

    • Consider redirecting existing Field Epidemiologists, or other contact tracing and outbreak investigation and response staff, to fill this role.

Workforce estimation calculators:

2. Current workforce assessment

  • Assess the current workforce available to fill contact tracing roles.

    • Understanding the human resources already available to support the surge contact tracing workforce will inform hiring needs.

    • The workforce can come from a variety of existing sources and will depend on available budget and hiring authority. Consider:

      • Public health professionals working in other areas of the health department or in other private or organizations or public agencies may be available to support

      • Local, state and federal employees may be available for redirection

      • National guard or other volunteers may be interested in willing to support contact tracing

    • Match knowledge and skills of individuals with key contact tracing roles and provide training can support workforce expansion. In addition to specific health public experience and expertise, look also at transferable skills when recruiting to scale up contact tracing workforce.

3. Recruitment

  • 3.a Identify the best personnel mechanism and recruitment processes to use for filling each type of position (e.g., permanent employee, part-time employee, contractor, volunteer).

    • Partnering with a private organization, such as a local university or non-profit organization, to manage hiring and/or workforce operations may be quicker and easier than doing this through health department mechanisms.

    • If working with a network of volunteers, ascertain their commitment to ensure a reliable workforce; if reliable, consider leveraging their existing infrastructure for personnel onboarding and management.

    • Consider how to handle staffing when contact tracing needs change, for example using hourly wages and reserving the right to reduce or scale hours as needed.

  • 3.b Identify or develop descriptions and qualifications for each position; write job descriptions.

  • 3.c. Identify or develop processes and tools for assessing applicant qualifications and rating applicants.

    • Where available, adapt existing processes and tools.

  • 3.d. Work with human resources to develop mechanism(s) for processing applications.

  • 3.e. Implement recruitment processes.

4. Workforce onboarding and training

  • 4.a Identify or develop materials and processes for contact tracing staff orientation.

    • Include orientation to the organization, contact tracing in general, and to the contact tracing program.

  • 4.b Identify training needs to develop knowledge and skills required for each type of contact tracing position.

    • Workforce training should explicitly include privacy protection training.

  • 4.c Identify or develop training methods, curricula, tools and materials for each type of contact tracing position.

Adapt existing training resources:

5. Workforce management system

  • Establish management system for contact tracing staff.

  • 5.a. Identify or develop protocols for each type of contact tracing position.

  • 5.b. Identify or establish criteria, measures and expectations for evaluation of workers in each type of contact tracing position.

    • Virtual coaching and mentoring are suggested to provide opportunities for continuous quality improvement.

  • 5.c. Identify or develop methods and systems for collecting data and producing reports for worker evaluation.

    • Ensure the selected metrics are available for export and reporting in the tools adopted for the contact tracing workflow.

6. Staff units

  • Organize core contact tracing staff into teams, as appropriate. A maximum of eight team members plus a team leader is suggested.

    • Size of team recommendation is based on best practices for productive work group sizes and to enable necessary oversight and support for contact tracing team members.

7. Liability protections

  • Confirm that contact tracing staff have protections of civil servants including liability protections, insurance and/or indemnity clauses.

Implementation Tools

CALL FOR MATERIALS The below tools are under development to support health departments in implementing the steps in the checklist. If you have any of these materials and would like to contribute to this playbook, please contact us at

LIVING DOCUMENT This playbook is a dynamic, "living" document. Global knowledge pertaining to COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. Feedback and suggestions can be sent to