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Missouri outsources contact tracing in coronavirus battle

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri is outsourcing contact tracing to private companies as part of the effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The state approved this week contracts with nine companies to help track down people who may have been in contact with those who test positive for COVID-19.

The outsourcing comes as the state continues to resolve problems with its COVID-19 dashboard that allows the public to keep track of new cases, hospitalizations, deaths and other factors related to the coronavirus. The website has not been updated since Saturday, when it showed 144,230 confirmed cases, including 5,066 reported that day.

By Sunday, the state acknowledged the one-day increase was wrong and said it was working to resolve the problem. State health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox said the aim was to have the dashboard functional again by Wednesday.

Until now, Missouri has relied largely on county health officials to pursue contact tracing.

“They know their communities,” Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, said in June. “They have the trust of their neighbors.”

Missouri joins other states in outsourcing the work, rather than hiring new employees. Indiana, Florida and Kentucky also have hired companies to supply contract tracers.

One of the companies retained by the state is Virginia-based Maximus, which said in its bid that it had trained more than 2,000 contact tracers and disease investigators and supervisors, clinicians, and call center representatives.

A full-time contract tracer job at Maximus could earn the equivalent of $82,188 annually, though the contract with the state expires Dec. 30.

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