Tuesday, June 9, 2020
Although contact tracing is not a new concept, it has recently gained headlines as the coronavirus pandemic continues throughout the United States and the world. As traditional civil process and investigation work have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with the closure of courts and limitations and delays with cases, some servers and investigators are looking to expand their offerings to include contact tracing. Keep reading to learn more about what contact tracing is, what training is required, and how process servers and private investigators can include contact tracing in their portfolio of services.
Contract Tracing is an investigative methodology that is used to identify and track down the individuals who may have been exposed to a contagious disease or virus. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, contact tracing has been used to identify those exposed to virulent, highly contagious diseases such as sexually transmitted diseases, SARS, polio, Ebola, and more. The purpose of contact tracing is to prevent the future spread and transmission of an infectious communicable disease in order to protect the health of the community at large.
Contract tracing is a time-intensive process that includes telephone interviews with those who have been infected. The interviewing process includes a series of questions that have the goal of reminding the subject of where they have been and with whom they have interacted so as to identify who may have been exposed. After they get that list, the contact tracers contact those individuals to notify that person that they may have been exposed and to advise on what that person can do to limit the spread and what to watch for, according to a recent CNBC article.
Both private investigators and process servers already possess a unique skill set in being able to locate and contact individuals, whether it’s to serve them court documents or interview them for a case. Skip tracing gives them an upper hand in being able to access more information to track down individuals who may have been exposed. Additionally, process servers and investigators are used to interacting with the public in a professional manner as they have done when serving court documents or pursuing cases. This related professional experience makes them particularly well-equipped to handle contact tracing assignments.
The CDC offers guidelines and training manuals that walk people through the methodology behind contact tracing. Additionally, an individual interested in becoming a contact tracer can complete the online Contact Tracing training offered by Johns Hopkins University through Coursera. Through this online training program, “students will learn about the science of SARS-CoV-2 , including the infectious period, the clinical presentation of COVID-19, and the evidence for how SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted from person-to-person and why contact tracing can be such an effective public health intervention. Students will learn about how contact tracing is done, including how to build rapport with cases, identify their contacts, and support both cases and their contacts to stop transmission in their communities. The course will also cover several important ethical considerations around contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine. Finally, the course will identify some of the most common barriers to contact tracing efforts — along with strategies to overcome them.”
Upon completion of the online training, individuals would be hired to conduct contact tracing through the local health department/government agencies. Just as the rules for process serving vary from state to state, the rules regarding contact tracing vary as well.
As the demand for civil process service and investigation has fluctuated over the years, many process servers and private investigators have included offering services beyond what they traditionally offer. Many will include notary service, court filing services, and some companies even have a social media investigation division.
Civil process server and owner of Smoky Mountain Process and Legal Services, Chris Wilkinson explained, “It’s always good in the process service field to diversify your interests. Under normal circumstances, we offer several different services and always look for ways to exist when times are slow. For example, process can be slow at the holidays, but notary [is] busy because people are off from work for an extended amount of time and want to take care of things they normally wouldn’t throughout the year.”
Offering an additional service like contract tracing could be another service that process servers and investigators could provide on a private basis to their clients, or they could go on to do this work through the government.
For process servers and private investigators, the allure of adding on an additional service — and one that is in demand — is certainly an attractive option. Contact tracers are needed across the United States. A May 2020 WebMD article cites that “[…] the United States will need at least 100,000 workers trained in contact tracing across the nation, at a bare minimum, to keep COVID-19 at a manageable level.” Once a server or investigator has completed the necessary training, he or she can contact their local government agency to see how they can fill the position. Unfortunately, this does vary from state to state, so it’s best to check with your local public health agency.
Will contact tracing become part of the future of the process serving and private investigation industry? Only time will tell. But until then, servers and investigators will be ready.
Wilkinson explained, “Whether we offer Contact Tracing remains to be seen. We are training to be prepared in the event it’s needed; however, the training offered could well be used in other aspects. Offering law firms infection control, and compliance consultation is something we are looking at especially if the virus hangs around and becomes part of our everyday life as some experts are predicting at least until a vaccine happens. We are ready to go if the call comes.”