On Monday, the first group of prospective contact tracers in Hawaii ― approximately 300 of them ― will begin training.

A second group of about 250 will begin training the following week.

And a third track of potential contact tracers, about 100, will begin later this year.

The goal is to have the first group ready to respond by mid-July should the state have a surge of COVID-19 cases.

The program is a partnership between the state Department of Health and the University of Hawaii, but it’s not limited to UH. Chaminade and Hawaii Pacific universities are also participating.

So far, more than 800 people have applied to be contact tracers who will track down the close contacts of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and ask that they quarantine or get tested.

All the participants will be volunteers with college course credits being offered.

That concerned members of the state Senate Special Committee on COVID-19, who wondered how long each volunteer would be available down the road.

State Epidemiologist Sarah Park agreed that could be a problem.

“As our economy starts to recover some of these people will no longer be available because they’ll be getting jobs,” she said.

That’s one reason the state is trying to recruit more applicants, especially those on the Neighbor Islands. Click here for more information.

Contact tracers are seen as crucial to continuing Hawaii’s low rate of the virus and to reopening the economy further.

Lynn Kawano/ Hawaii News Now