CDC director: US has about 28,000 contact tracers, needs 100,000


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield told Congress on Tuesday that the United States has about 28,000 contact tracers, falling short of the 100,000 that are needed to track the spread of coronavirus. 

Redfield said at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing that the number of contact tracers has increased from around 6,000 in January to around 28,000 as of early June. But he said the country needs to “continue to increase in my view towards 100,000.”

“That’s going to be critical for what we’re doing,” he said. 

Contact tracing often gets less attention than COVID-19 testing but experts say it is also an urgent priority to stem the spread of the disease.

Once a person tests positive for coronavirus, a contact tracer interviews them to find out who they have recently been in close contact with, and then calls those people to warn them of their exposure and encourage them to quarantine for 14 days to prevent further spread of the virus. 

The federal government has distributed some funding, but states and localities are taking the lead in the effort to recruit contact tracers.  

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials is calling on Congress to provide $7.6 billion in new federal funding dedicated solely to contact tracing. The $25 billion Congress previously provided is for both testing and contact tracing. 

The House Democrats’ proposed next coronavirus response package includes a much higher sum, $75 billion, for testing and contact tracing. 

Contact tracers have also encountered difficulty in reaching many people. Getting people to answer their phones is one issue

Tags Contact tracing Coronavirus COVID-19 Public health Robert Redfield

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