How Did Florida Hire 100 Epidemiologists in a Weekend?

Public health professionals working in an Emergency Operations Center for the COVID-19 crisis. Credit: CDC

Last week, Florida health officials found themselves overwhelmed. The state’s disease experts were working around the clock to trace the rapidly spreading coronavirus, and the state needed more of them. In an unprecedented gathering of resources, the state recruited 100 professors and students from five universities to help track the spread of COVID-19.

Those professors and students are being hired part-time to do what epidemiologists do: interview people with coronavirus about their history and symptoms, trace their contacts and enter that information into databases.

They will be working in coordination with the Florida Department of Health’s 264 infectious disease epidemiologists, but they will not be going out in the field to interview coronavirus patients. Instead, they’ll be conducting interviews by phone.

“To gather the need for this many epidemiologists, I don’t know if there’s ever been a situation like this,” said Janice Zgibor, a professor and associate dean for academic affairs at the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health. “I haven’t heard of it in my lifetime.”

Read the full story by Lawrence Mower at the Tampa Bay Times

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