Washington state to implement 'rapid-response' contact tracing workforce in May

Washington state to implement 'rapid-response' contact tracing workforce in May
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Washington state will implement a rapid-response contact tracing workforce next month as part of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeVaccine mandates put unions in a bind Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Armadillo army takes over North Carolina town Washington redistricting commission fails, punts maps to Supreme Court MORE (D) said Tuesday. 

"We expect roughly 1,500 workers focused solely on contact tracing by the second week of May," Inslee said in a televised speech Tuesday, according to NPR. "This workforce will be rapid-response, something like a fire brigade."

There are about 700 contact tracers available now who are state and local health employees, but more will be hired and the state will draw 500 additional tracers from the National Guard, NPR reports. 

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Washington was one of the first states in the U.S. to be hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. 

Washington reported 12,494 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 692 deaths due to the disease as of Wednesday. 

Public health experts have said contact tracers, trained workers who can get in touch with infected patients and find out who else they may have been in contact with, are a critical step needed to prevent another surge in COVID-19 infections as officials weigh lifting social distancing restrictions to open state economies. 

"We're now needing to scale up contact tracing," former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden told NPR. "Ten or one hundred-fold more. It needs to be extremely proactive and complete."

California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomAppeals court blocks California vaccine mandate for prison workers Apple, Nordstrom stores hit in latest smash-and-grab robberies Ted Cruz ribs Newsom over vacation in Mexico: 'Cancun is much nicer than Cabo' MORE (D) said Wednesday the state is planning to train up to 10,000 contact tracers.

Last week Newsom said increased testing and contact tracing was one of six indicators that would drive the state’s decision to gradually modify portions of the stay-at-home-order.