Amid the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state's contact tracing pilot program, with leadership from billionaire former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, will begin in the coming weeks.
The ambitious initiative will become a "playbook" for countries and other states, Bloomberg said, adding New York will share details with any location around the world.
The program will operate through the next flu season, and it will be implemented in coordination with tristate neighbors New Jersey and Connecticut.
Bloomberg joined Cuomo remotely for Cuomo's daily news briefing held on Thursday, April 30 in Albany.
It will focus on areas with the highest rates of infection and on regions where data shows could be the first to open.
The program will include a baseline of 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 individuals and will utilize additional tracers based on the projected number of cases in each region.
It's expected to have 6,400 to 17,000 tracers in New York depending on the projected number of cases. Contact tracing teams will work remotely with software to develop a secure database of information on the spread of the infection.
To meet the nation-leading scale and scope of this program, Bloomberg and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health will support the State Department of Health's initiative to build an army of contact tracers through a three-step process: recruitment, interviewing and training.
Bloomberg Philanthropies will help DOH to actively identify and recruit potential contact tracers for the program from state, city and county health departments.
As part of this effort, The Bloomberg School - the top-rated public health school in the country - in consultation with New York's health department, will develop a world-class online curriculum for the state's contact tracers that includes a training program and an online exam that must be passed to complete the program.
Contact tracing will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 with four steps:
- First, labs will report positive cases of COVID-19 immediately to contact tracers on a daily basis.
- The contact tracer will then interview the positive patient to identify people they may have been in contact with over the past 14 days.
- The contact tracer will notify and interview each contact to alert them to their risk of infection and instruct those contacts to quarantine or isolate for 14 days to be sure they don't spread COVID-19 to others.
- Finally, the contact tracers will monitor those contacts by text throughout the duration of their quarantine or isolation to see if the contacts are showing any symptoms.
"We know increasing our testing capacity is the key to re-opening New York," Cuomo said, "and the second step after testing is tracing to find out who tested positive, who they contacted and then isolate those people so you don't increase the rate of infection.
"Tracing is not hard on an individual basis -- the problem is the massive scale and with an operation that has never existed before.
"We need our contact tracing program to come up to scale to meet what we're doing with testing as soon as possible, and we are working with Mike Bloomberg now to build an army of tracers to meet the state's demand so we can begin this operation immediately."
"One of the most important steps to take to re-open the economy as safely as possible is to create a system of contact tracing," Bloomberg said. "When social distancing is relaxed, contact tracing is our best hope for isolating the virus when it appears - and keeping it isolated.
"Gov. Cuomo recognized that, and since Bloomberg Philanthropies has deep experience and expertise in public health, we are glad to support the state in developing and implementing a contact tracing program. And we will share what we learned publicly, so cities and states around the country can build on our efforts, and so can nations around the world."
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