The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, told Congress Tuesday that the United States has about 28,000 contact trackers, which do not reach the 100,000 needed to track the spread of the coronavirus.
Redfield told a House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing that the number of contact trackers has increased from around 6,000 in January to around 28,000 in early June. But he said the country needs “to continue to increase to 100,000 in my opinion.”
“That will be critical to what we are doing,” he said.
Contact tracing often receives less attention than COVID-19 testing, but experts say it is also an urgent priority to stop the spread of the disease.
Once a person tests positive for coronavirus, a contact tracker interviews them to find out who they’ve recently been in 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 funds, but states and localities are taking the lead in the effort to recruit contact trackers.
The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials is calling in Congress to provide $ 7.6 billion in new federal funds dedicated exclusively to locating contacts. The $ 25 billion Congress provided previously is for testing and contact tracing.
The upcoming coronavirus response package proposed by House Democrats includes a much larger sum, $ 75 billion, for testing and contact tracing.
Contact trackers have also found it difficult to reach many people. Get people to answer their phones it’s a problem.