States build contact tracing armies to crush coronavirus

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State governments are building armies of contact tracers in a new phase of the battle against the coronavirus pandemic, returning to a fundamental practice in public health that can at once wrestle the virus under control and put hundreds of thousands of newly jobless people back to work.

California is already conducting contact tracing in 22 counties, and it eventually plans to field a force of 10,000 state employees, who will be given basic training by University of California health experts.

Massachusetts and Ohio have partnered with Partners in Health, a global health nonprofit originally established to support programs in Haiti, to field teams of contact tracers. Maryland will partner with the University of Chicago and NORC, formerly the National Opinion Research Center, to quadruple its contact tracing capacity.

Washington, West Virginia, Iowa, North Dakota and Rhode Island are using their National Guards to trace contacts of those who have been infected with the coronavirus. In Kansas, 400 people have volunteered to trace contacts; in Utah, 1,200 state employees have raised their hands.

Contact tracing is a pillar of basic public health, a critical element in battling infectious disease around the globe. The goal is to identify those who have been infected with a virus and those with whom the infected person has come into contact.

If those contacts then come down with the virus, they can be quickly isolated so they do not spread it further. They can also be treated, making it less likely they develop the most severe symptoms.

The practice works even in areas where health systems are thin at best and nonexistent at worst.  – READ MORE

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