Bloomberg spearheading ‘tracing army’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo describes the challenge of testing and tracing thousands of COVID-19 patients.

ALBANY — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be spearheading a “tracing army” to research those contacts who have interacted with those testing positive.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during Thursday’s press briefing that when a new positive COVID-19 case is found, the state needs to talk to that person and trace back who they had been in contact with, and then test and isolate those people to stem any increase in the rate of spread.

Cuomo said the problem is the scale — on Wednesday health care workers tested 4,681 people who were positive.

That’s why it’s so hard, he said. They have to trace 4,681 people from the day they were diagnosed, back to two weeks before, and the next day they’ll have another 4,000 people diagnosed.

The New York State Tracing Program must have a baseline of 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 people, along with additional tracers based on the projected number of cases in a region, Cuomo said. This means statewide there needs to be 6,400 to 17,000 tracers depending on projected cases.

Bloomberg Philanthropies, John Hopkins University and the New York State Department of Health will be recruiting and training the tracing army needed. Cuomo said they’ll draw tracers from state, city and county health departments and other governmental employees who are currently not working, as well as hiring.

Calling into the conference via telephone, Bloomberg said to help the state in training the tracers, John Hopkins University has developed a training class which can be taken remotely, which covers all the basic information of epidemics, contact tracing and privacy.

“There is also a test at the end of the training, which you have to pass in order to be hired,” he said. “So we’re not going to put out people there who don’t know what they’re doing.”

Three new smartphone apps are also being developed; the first will help contact tracers find information and data quickly, the second will help the public provide information to the health departments, and the third will allow those in quarantine to access the guidance and services they need, including the ability to report any symptoms they may be experiencing.

A comprehensive “playbook” will also be developed, including details on how to do contact tracing effectively.

That playbook will be released publicly so any states and cities around the country can use it, as well as other countries around the world.

In other news, total hospitalizations and new COVID cases are down slightly in New York, but 306 lives were lost on Wednesday — 287 in hospitals and 19 in nursing homes.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1