Johns Hopkins is offering a free contact tracing course for amateur disease detectives

Contact tracing is one of the best existing defenses against coronavirus. Anyone can do it, if they’ve got the time and the tenacity — and now, you can learn how for free.

This week, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health launched a free online course on contact tracing for amateur sleuths hired to stop the virus in its tracks. It’s required for the thousands of contact tracers that New York is hiring, but it’s available to anyone who’s interested.

Contact tracing is a kind of disease detective work. Tracers track down anyone who might’ve been infected by a person who was recently diagnosed with coronavirus so those contacts can quarantine themselves and prevent further spread.

READ MORE: Contact tracing 101: How it works and why it’s critical in fighting Covid-19

It’s an involved process, but public health experts say the US can’t safely reopen without it. A study from the Bloomberg School’s Center for Health Security estimated the US will need at least 100,000 contact tracers to stymy Covid-19 before reopening.

The five-hour course covers the tracing basics: How to interview people who’ve been diagnosed, identify their close contacts and support them during quarantine, to name a few. Students will mock-interview, consult with Johns Hopkins faculty and simulate ethical dilemmas on the job, the university said in a statement.

The course is required for New York contact tracers

States are scrambling to hire enough contact tracers to handle a potential spike in cases after states reopen.

New York’s contact tracing program is one of the most ambitious in the country. The state is hiring anywhere from 6,400 to 17,000 contact tracers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced.

New York tracing hopefuls are required to take the Johns Hopkins course, which was created in conjunction with Bloomberg Philanthropies, the umbrella organization for Bloomberg’s charitable giving.

To aid with government and public health efforts, Apple and Google could soon launch contact tracing apps that notify users whether they’ve come in contact with someone exposed to coronavirus. It’s up to users to opt in.

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