Newswise — As COVID-19 continues to spread around the country, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, with Bloomberg Philanthropies, today announced a free new online course to help public health officials implement strong contact tracing programs to break the chain of novel coronavirus transmission.

The new course, “Measuring and Maximizing Impact of COVID-19 Contact Tracing,” will teach managers and developers of contact tracing programs how to use performance indicators using an interactive tool for estimating the impact of their program on transmission and for strategizing performance improvements. In addition, decision makers can learn more about how SARS-CoV-2 transmission impacts the performance of such programs. Faculty experts from the Bloomberg School of Public Health will teach the course.

The course takes approximately 3–4 hours to complete and is available for registration on the Coursera platform starting today. It builds on a highly successful introductory contact tracing course that the Bloomberg School has been offering in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies and New York State, with the goal of training an army of contact tracers. More than 200,000 people have completed that initial course.

Contact tracing is a public health tool that identifies infected people and their contacts, who may also be infected, and asks them to abstain from contact with others for a limited amount of time to prevent further spread of the virus. It has proved successful in stopping transmission of other infectious diseases, including measles, Ebola, and tuberculosis, and has been a key component of pandemic responses in countries that have been able to control COVID-19 spread.

“Our first course focused on the frontline workers who do contact tracing in the field,” said Justin Lessler, associate professor in Epidemiology at the Bloomberg School and one of the course instructors. “But to defeat COVID-19, we also need to help the people who manage contact tracing programs measure their effectiveness, understand which factors are most impacting performance, and use that information to make improvements. That’s what this new course is about.” Developed through a partnership between the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Bloomberg Philanthropies, the course has three sections or “modules,” covering: 

  1. Measuring the impact of contact tracing, including performance metrics and completeness and timing of surveillance, contact tracing, and quarantine
  2. Estimating the impact in contact tracing through use of an interactive tool, ConTESSA, available here
  3. Strategies for increasing the impact of contact tracing

“Our hope is that this interactive application will support hardworking contact tracing teams by showing them the impact they’re making now, and providing a vision for how to reach a new level of excellence,” said Emily S. Gurley, lead instructor for the course and an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Bloomberg School. “Large-scale and timely testing and contact tracing is essential to our nation’s recovery. We are honored to bring our collective expertise to bear on this critical public health practice.”

As part of this effort, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has also launched a centralized collection of publicly available COVID-19 resources for public health agencies and other organizations. The COVID-19 Resources for Practitioners website includes free online courses, training material, and tools developed under the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Training Initiative as well as resources produced by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nongovernmental health organizations, and academic institutions.


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