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Job difficulty, lack of experience behind a shortage of contact tracers

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Thousands of people applied to become contact tracers months ago but now the state is experiencing a shortage as many employees were inexperienced, fired, or resigned due to the difficulty of the job, according to The Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

In May, more than 4,500 people applied for contact tracing jobs with the state. As of Wednesday, DHS said they have about 1,200 investigating community spread but noted that won't be enough to keep up with the rising number of cases across the state.

"We brought many of those applicants on board but some left to due to the difficulty of the work and some were not meeting expectations," said Andrea Palm, DHS Secretary.

Palm added while a lot of people stepped up early on during the pandemic, it's leveled off since then.

"People with the best intentions want to help and get involved in their community but many (who applied) may not be the best fit for this," she said.

DHS posted job openings for these positions on Wednesday and 100 new employees will start on Monday.

The decline in applicants comes as DHS said they are at capacity and can't provide communities experiencing surges with contact tracers until they hire more staff.

Local health departments are in dire need of these resources and without them communities at times are unable to get to the source of who else may have been infected or where the spread began.

This is another challenge facing the state during a time many counties -- Jefferson, Rock, and Sauk, say they are experiencing crisis levels for the number of people becoming infected.

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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