Becoming a coronavirus contact tracer intrigues those whose employment was impacted by COVID-19

Linley SandersSenior Data Journalist
May 22, 2020, 12:45 PM GMT+0

A staggering number of 38 million Americans have lost their jobs over the last nine weeks as COVID-19 batters the national economy. Even more adults have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus through furloughs, reassignments, and reduced working hours.

One employment industry is growing amid the pandemic, however: contact tracers. A contact tracer is someone who tracks down the individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19 by interacting with an infected person. They help ensure that the people who had exposure are safely quarantined to limit community spread of the virus. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every state and locality will soon need “large cadres” of contact tracers to safely reopen.

Data from YouGov shows that Americans whose employment has been negatively impacted by COVID-19 — particularly through lay-offs/ retrenchments, furloughs, unpaid leaves, or reduced work hours — are especially interested in becoming a coronavirus contact tracer. More than one-third (35%) of this group is very interested in the new positions, while another quarter of people (24%) say they are somewhat interested in the job. Just one in five (21%) say they are not at all interested.

Americans overall are less intrigued by becoming a coronavirus contact tracer. Fewer than half (46%) express interest in the positions, and three in 10 adults (30%) say they are not at all interested.  

Contact for crosstabs from this poll 

Related: Most Americans are wearing face masks and say President Trump should, too 

Methodology16,449 US Adults were asked: “If you were looking for work, how interested would you be in becoming a coronavirus contact tracer? Coronavirus contact tracers will call the contacts of anyone diagnosed with COVID-19, refer contacts to testing centers, and give them instructions for self-quarantine?” Response options: Very interested, somewhat interested, not very interested, not at all interested, or don’t know. The survey was conducted April 23 – May 10, 2020.  

The primary was cross-sectioned with a question that asked, “Which, if any, of the following changes have been made to your employment status, specifically as a result of the coronavirus outbreak?” Response options: "I was retrenched/asked to resign," "I was put on furlough," "Leave of absence / unpaid leave," “I was required to be quarantined or to serve a stay-at-home notice,” “My working hours were increased,” or "My working hours were reduced." The US adults whose employment was negatively impacted by COVID-19 were defined as those who responded to the question with "I was retrenched/asked to resign," "I was put on furlough," "Leave of absence / unpaid leave," or "My working hours were reduced."  

There were 625 Americans in the cross-section of US adults whose employment was negatively impacted by COVID-19 and also responded to the question about becoming a coronavirus contact tracer. 

Image: Getty