Florida Public Health Review

Publication Date



Background: The rapidly expanding COVID-19 pandemic created an immediate demand for the Department of Health in Hillsborough County (DOH-Hillsborough) Epidemiology Program to supplement its contact tracing workforce; and, because of the long duration of the response, a sustained workforce was needed. The DOH-Hillsborough Epidemiology Program’s COVID-19 response, broadly referred to as “contact tracing”, included case investigations, outbreaks, and identification and notifications to exposed individuals. To meet contact tracing staffing needs, several staffing options were utilized, including Core Epidemiology Staff, Reassigned DOH-Hillsborough staff (Reassigned Staff), Contracted staffing agency hires (Contract Staff), State of Florida hires (State Level Hires), County hires (DOH-Hillsborough Hires), and college and university faculty and students (University Partners).

Purpose: To understand the differences in work output and efficiency across staffing groups (quantitative analysis) and to understand Core Epidemiology Staff recommendations when hiring temporary staff as contact tracers (qualitative analysis).

Methods: A mixed-methods approached was used to assess each staffing group hired in Hillsborough County. Quantitative data was analyzed from 3/1/2020 through 1/31/2021, and included data from the state’s personnel management system and the state’s reportable disease database to represent work output. Qualitative interviews with DOH-Hillsborough Core Epidemiology Staff were conducted and analyzed to understand Core Epidemiology Staff recommendations when hiring surge staffing in the future.

Results: During the evaluation period, 199 staff across the staffing groups worked a collective 132,252.50 hours. The number of hours worked per case and contact ranged from 10.16 in Core Epidemiology Staff to 0.67 in University Partners. During qualitative interviews with the Core Epidemiology Staff, five common themes emerged as ideal characteristics for temporary contact tracing staff. These included: communication skills, professionalism, public health knowledge, following official guidance, and flexibility. Two groups who emerged as the “best hires” for their seamless transition into their roles included University Partners and the State Level hires.

Discussion: These mixed methods data can be used to develop best practices to inform future surge staffing needs.

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Epidemiology Commons