In the absence of a federal plan, some city and state health departments are already seeking to fill thousands of these positions. Experts estimate that between 100,000 and 300,000 contact tracers — who can earn up to $65,000 per year — will be needed nationwide based on state populations and projected COVID-19 infection rates.

“I do think that it’s a fantastic job for people who have been furloughed, and it’s something that people can be trained to do,” said Roger Shapiro, a professor of medicine at the Harvard School of Public Health. “It takes some training, but it’s not impossible to train almost anybody with reasonable social skills, who can work off a script, begin a conversation with people, convey a few key messages and collect data,” he said.