Throughout history, pandemics have devastated populations and changed the trajectory of mankind. The global effects of the current COVID-19 pandemic have disproportionately affected certain regions and population groups. This course provides an overview of the far-reaching impact of COVID-19 and presents contact tracing as a tool to mitigate the spread of the disease. Contact tracers are critically needed to help state and local health departments, particularly in large and diverse states such as Texas.
This course was developed during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, and thus, some of the data regarding disease prevalence, mortality, and vaccines have changed over time. The content, which addresses issues specific to population health and contact tracing during a pandemic, remains relevant.
The Epidemiology and Pregnancy and COVID-19 module authors would like to thank Andrew Roblyer, CHSE, Bettina Beech, MD, MPH, and LeChauncy Woodard, MD, MPH, for their assistance in creating illustrations and providing editorial feedback.
The Community Resources team would like to thank Gabriela Mohr, Doctoral Student, University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, for her help in developing references.
The authors of the Ethical, Legal, and Regulatory Considerations module authors would like to thank their research assistant Cody Miller.
The authors of the Vaccine and Spread module would like to thank Andrew Robyler and C. Griffin Litwin, BA, a UH NSM post-baccalaureate student (BA in Politics), for his instructional design expertise.
Thank you to Matthew Castillo and Iggy Harrison for their help in creating the video modules.
This module describes the basic principles and methods of epidemiology and their broad applicability to COVID-19. It also covers the history of the virus, clinical presentation, transmission, and the role of contact tracing in mitigating reproduction by identifying contacts and managing disease exposure.
History of Pandemics
This module examines selected examples of past pandemics that have applications for the current COVID-19 pandemic. The module illustrates how activities across history – trade, war, conquest, and travel – have created and incubated the conditions necessary for catastrophic infectious disease outbreaks to occur. Using those same examples, the module highlights public health interventions, community cooperation, and other actions that have been instrumental in saving countless lives even in the most difficult and perilous of circumstances.
This module describes the currently available tests for COVID-19. It also defines the characteristics of those tests, indications for testing, and the role of each test in diagnosing current infection or identifying past exposure to the virus. The module also provides a list of resources for obtaining COVID-19 laboratory testing.
What is Contact Tracing?
In this module, the why and how of contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic is explained. The module describes what prompts are needed, what the process involves, and how contract tracing is successfully managed. Finally, the module offers effective communication strategies for contact tracers as they engage with a range of affected communities.
Vaccine and Spread
This module describes the body’s immune system and the role of antibodies and vaccines in the COVID-19 pandemic. As there are currently no available COVID-19 treatments, this module will also provide an overview of how coronavirus spreads and critical prevention strategies to reduce transmission prior to the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Contact Tracing: Ethical, Legal, and Regulatory Issues
This module discusses some of the ethical, legal, and regulatory considerations that arise in the context of contact tracing. Specifically, it focuses on the collection, protection, and sharing of information during a routine contact tracing phone call. This module will also enhance an understanding of key terms in law and ethics; evolving legal and ethical issues in contact tracing; and questions that may arise while working as a contract tracer.
Mental Health and COVID-19
This module addresses the mental health impact of COVID-19. It will cover the range of normal responses, signs that a stress response might be problematic, constructive management of fear, and concerns for special populations such as children, elderly individuals, and healthcare workers. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused concerns about illness, financial stress, and the challenges of prolonged social distancing. Moreover, numerous individuals who were affected by mental health issues prior to the pandemic are confronted with managing their illness in the face of added stress and changes in the way the access support. This module includes useful resources for supporting individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This module describes the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations, including communities of color, those with low socioeconomic status, and the elderly. The module will define health equity terminology, describe the influence of social determinants of health on COVID-19-related outcomes, and identify how COVID-19 has exacerbated longstanding health inequities in the United States.
Pregnancy and COVID-19
This module focuses on pregnancy-related issues regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. The module covers how the pandemic may affect perinatal care, including the importance of continuing preventive health care in the prenatal and postpartum periods. Additional issues include care for pregnant and postpartum patients with COVID-19 infection, concerns regarding breastfeeding during the pandemic, and mental health issues that can be exacerbated during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
COVID-19 in Children
This module examines the current and evolving knowledge around the effects of COVID-19 in the pediatric population. Topics include the epidemiology and physical manifestations of the virus as seen in children, including the newly described Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome. The module also explores the conflicting information regarding children as “super-spreaders,” ways to help prevent spread among children, and how to mitigate the disruptive effects of the pandemic on the lives of children. Finally, this module describes current recommendations regarding the criteria for re-opening schools and daycare centers. Many updated resources are provided throughout the module.
Community Education and Navigation
Contact Tracers are a critical link in public health efforts to stem the tide of new COVID-19 infections. They are also a lifeline to much-needed resources for many of the people they will contact. In this module, you will learn about some of the areas of life that COVID-19 may have disrupted. This will allow you to be sensitive to and listen for specific needs when you are speaking with a case/client. The module also covers examples of how and where to find a variety of resources for your case/client, and some strategies for vetting the information before you share it. Finally, the module covers some important considerations about finding resources for vulnerable populations, including immigrants, older adults, homeless individuals, and veterans. The module will not make you a social worker or a case manager, but it will equip you with the tools to help your case/client find the resources they need.
Gregorio Gomez, Leah Fowler, Helen Valier, Michelle Carroll Turpin, Luis Torres, Omar Matuk-Villazon, David Buck, Kendra Smith, Ph.D., William Elder, Bettina Beech, Omolola Adepoju, Steven Starks, M.D. , FAPA, Kristin Kassaw, Lechauncy Woodard, Brian Reed, Joel Blumberg, Kenya Steele, Jessica Mantel, Kathleen Jones, Ruth Bush, Camille Leugers, Vanessa K. Tilney, Winston Liaw and Kimberly Pilkinton
This course is a comprehensive material of must-knows not just for contact tracers but also for public health practitioners involved in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the material is quite dated (pre-vaccine rollout) and is specific to the United States (in particular, Texas) setting, this offering is still worth taking by virtually anyone experiencing the pandemic in their own contexts.