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The city will train 300 residents to help in the response to COVID-19, employing them to conduct contact tracing and serve as care coordinators and community health workers under a pilot program called Baltimore Health Corps, officials announced.

Under the public-private partnership, officials hope to reach underserved communities that have been disproportionately been impacted by the pandemic and employ Baltimoreans who have lost their jobs.

Applications are up now and the organization is looking to hire immediately.

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said the initiative would help the city build a critical contact-tracing program to stop the spread of the virus, while also addressing “the city’s interconnected economic and public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Young said the eventual members will perform outreach, education and social support in addition to contact tracing.

“All 300-plus members of the Baltimore Health Corps will receive a living wage and a stipend for health insurance to serve as full-time, trusted contact tracers and care coordinators in our communities,” he said.

The city has a goal of funding the program with $12 million, of which almost $9 million has been raised, the mayor said. The Rockefeller Foundation kicked things off with a pledge of $2 million, and the city is contributing $4.5 million of CARES Act funds.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the France-Merrick Foundation, the Goldseker Foundation, OSI-Baltimore, PepsiCo, the Rouse Foundation, the T. Rowe Price Foundation, Sloman Foundation and Maryland Department of Labor pledged a combined $2.3 million, Young said.

Baltimore Corps, the Baltimore City Health Department, the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, HealthCare Access Maryland, the Baltimore Civic Fund and Jhpiego are also partners in the pilot initiative.

Baltimore has 5,801 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 258 deaths from the virus as of Thursday morning, Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said.

Dzirasa said the positions will last for the duration of the city’s response to the virus and allow her department to “dramatically expand” its capacity to do so.

A majority of the hires will conduct contact tracing, a process that helps health officials track down people who may have been in close proximity to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Dzirasa said contact tracing is “one of the most important tools” to slow the transmission of the disease.

Other jobs will include informing residents about their test results and teaching them about the best way to self-isolate if they test positive.

The pilot is looking for people with great communication and problem-solving skills, experience in customer service, prior experience in education, health care or social service, or speak multiple languages, Dzirasa said.

Jason Perkins-Cohen, director of the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, said the program will also help the economic crisis the city faces from the loss of jobs and businesses caused by the pandemic.

“We all know that the best prescription for an economic crisis is a j-o-b,” he said.

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Brandon Weigel

Brandon Weigel is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Urbanite, The Baltimore...