Can Contact Tracing Put An End To Coronavirus?

Photo: Nina Westervelt/Bloomberg/Getty Images.
With the news that a second wave of coronavirus could hit later this year, the U.S. is upping their strategies to keep the pandemic from raging on. While social distancing and increased testing are helping to flatten the curve, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending we take on another tactic: contact tracing.
Put simply, contact tracing is a way to find and keep tabs on everyone who's been in contact with a person who's been infected with COVID-19, explains the CDC. The organization says it is a key part of a “multi-pronged approach to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.”
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Here's how it works: First, people will be trained on how to perform contract tracing. That's what Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York City meant when he pledged to create a "tracing army"; people have to learn how to do it. The CDC is calling on communities to scale up and train a large contact tracer workforce.
Next, trained contact tracers will work with infected patients to help them recall everyone they've had close contact with while they may have been infectious. Those exposed individuals (known as contacts) will be tracked down and warned that they may have been infected. They'll be asked to isolate themselves for 14 days so, in the event that they were infected, they don't pass the disease onto others. They'll also be educated about how COVID-19 can get passed along (even by asymptomatic carriers), and taught how to monitor themselves for symptoms.
For contact tracing to be most effective, states will also have to implement widespread testing in order to identify as many people as possible who have been infected, so they can then find those people's contacts. Although the amount of tests available are unclear, The White House has agreed to help ramp up testing efforts in New York, ABC News reports.
The main goal of contact tracing is to stop the chain of transmissions. Identifying contacts and encouraging them to self-isolate is critical to protecting communities from further spread, the CDC says.
An estimated 100,000 contact tracers will need to be trained and added to the public health workforce, according to a recent report from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. The report says that the effort would require $3.6 billion in emergency funding in Congressional funding.
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States are already starting to recruit people to be trained to be tracers. Colorado, Kentucky, New Jersey, Alabama, Utah, Oklahoma, and North Carolina are hoping to train medical students and school nurses, and New York City may even start recruiting students, says ABC News. A health organization in Massachusetts has even put up a job posting that asks people with these qualifications to apply: proficiency with computers, a high school diploma, an ability to handle confidential information, and excellent interpersonal skills.
Contact tracing was used as a critical intervention during the Ebola crisis in 2014 and during the SARS outbreak in 2003, and was called "crucially important" to help control the spread of both.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.

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