Denver – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet welcomed news that the CDC Foundation has revised eligibility requirements for prospective Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) contact tracers, so that applicants no longer need to possess a bachelor’s degree, expanding opportunities for good-paying jobs and public health careers to more Americans. The change follows a call earlier this month from a group of Senate Democrats, led by Bennet, for the CDC Foundation to reconsider this requirement.
“The CDC Foundation’s initial decision to exclude recent high school and associate’s degree graduates from its contact tracing workforce would have needlessly impeded our ability to scale up contact tracing and fight this virus effectively. I’m glad the CDC foundation heeded our call and revised its requirements so that recent graduates can join our public health workforce,” said Bennet. “This decision has the potential to open up pathways for more Americans to join our country’s COVID-19 response and jumpstart careers in public health for those who would have otherwise been shut out.”
To reopen the economy, experts believe the country needs hundreds of thousands of contact tracers to track and limit the spread of the virus. Highly experienced nonprofits like Partners in Health have run successful contact tracing programs without requiring contact tracers to possess a bachelor’s degree. The removal of this requirement will help ensure the CDC Foundation has the workforce it needs to conduct effective contact tracing and to provide job opportunities for recent graduates and millions of Americans who have lost their jobs in recent months.
Bennet’s letter urging the CDC Foundation and CDC to reconsider this decision was signed by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
In their letter, the senators wrote, “We are dismayed to have learned that the CDC is requiring applicants to the CDC Foundation’s Contact Tracer position to possess a bachelor’s degree. This decision excludes individuals who would be well-equipped to excel in such a position and may slow down the agency’s efforts to scale up its contact tracing force to the levels that are desperately needed. We firmly believe that these positions should be open to a broader set of applicants, including those with a high school degree, a GED, or an associate’s degree. Anyone who is able to do the job, should be eligible to do the job.”
The text of the letter from the group of 9 Senate Democrats is available HERE.
Last month, Bennet and Gillibrand also introduced legislation to create a Health Force to recruit, train, and employ hundreds of thousands of Americans and directly support the nation’s community health efforts to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.