The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our community significantly. Those infected have faced significant disruption to their health and life.

Family and friends struggle to support their sick loved ones while trying to maintain their own safety. School closures have resulted in remote learning and parents of school-age children quickly shifted gears to become teachers’ assistants. Some businesses permanently closed while others are struggling to stay afloat. The economy has suffered and countless people in our community have been furloughed or laid off.

Our world has changed drastically in just a few short months. Many of us have felt helpless and ponder what we can do to help. The faculty and staff at Waubonsee Community College are working tirelessly to make a difference in this time of uncertainty.

Waubonsee Community College has designed two new courses that will benefit our community greatly. The courses were developed to support local health departments in their efforts to contain the transmission of COVID-19, spur job growth, and improve workplace safety during the pandemic.

Recently, Waubonsee Community College launched a Public Health Contact Tracer course. The State of Illinois has reported that thousands of trained contact tracers are needed to help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sometimes called “disease detectives,” these tracers contact individuals who have contracted COVID-19 to provide them with support and resources, and also to gather information about the people and places with whom they have recently been in contact. Contact tracers then do additional outreach to those individuals who have potentially been exposed to the disease so that appropriate education and prevention measures (quarantine, etc.) can be implemented.

This two-week, online Public Health Contact Tracer course is aligned with the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for contact tracing and was designed in conjunction with public health officials.

In the course, students learn about COVID-19 transmission reduction, the procedures paramount to successful contact tracing, protecting health information, communication skills, data management, and the utilization of technology in contact tracing. Contact tracers can earn up to $24 per hour, work full-time or part-time, and typically work from the safety and comfort of their own home. For more information on this class, please see www.waubonsee.edu/tracer.

The second new course, Occupational Safety and Health Administration COVID-19 Acute Illness Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan, was designed to help local businesses and employers develop a plan for workplace safety specific to COVID-19. As more businesses are reopening, workplace safety has become more important than ever.

This four-hour, online course will cover OSHA COVID-19 Inspections, OSHA and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommendations, and best practices for establishing and implementing an effective COVID-19 preparedness and response plan. The course will focus on OSHA’s hierarchy of controls, including conducting a facility COVID-19 risk assessment, and the development of a written plan.

Please contact Deb Jones at djones1@waubonsee.edu with any questions about these programs. Visit www.waubonsee.edu for more information about these courses and everything else the college is doing to help our community as we work through the challenges of this time.

Deb Jones is the Workforce Coordinator for Health Professions and Public Service.

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