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Virtual contact tracing class begins at Portland Community College

PCC Dean Karen Sanders says contact tracers are crucial if we want to stop the spread of COVID-19.

PORTLAND, Oregon — Portland Community College is launching a new program that will train the next group of contact tracers. 

PCC Dean Karen Sanders says contact tracers are crucial if we want to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Contact tracers call infected people and ask them about their lives over the past few weeks. Sanders says part of the training is creating a script that tracers will use to call people.

"The training is six modules," Sanders said. "It's full online and the participants have two weeks to complete those six modules." 

Sanders says one of the most important parts of the lesson is cultural sensitivity, since these contact tracers will be interviewing people from different walks of life.

"A lot of the curriculum is around explicit and implicit bias and making sure when you talk to people, you are providing them with the information and you're not judging or making recommendations that are from your perspective," Sanders said.

Sanders says the Oregon Health Authority gave the college a Zoom training developed by contact tracers. They also received guidelines from the CDC.

David Cuevas is a contact tracer with the Multnomah County Health Department and says you have to adjust the information to fit the individual.

"A lot of people come from different cultures, different backgrounds, different ages, you want to make sure the info you give to someone in their 20s is not the same info you give to someone in their 70s," Cuevas said.

Cuevas says sometimes it's hard to ask someone to stay home and quarantine.

"Some people have big families and they have to work, so it's challenging to ask someone to stay home," he said.

Sanders says the classes are open to the public and she encourages anyone who is bilingual to sign up.

"Not all the people that you connect with and have been exposed to COVID-19 speak English," Sanders said.