Apr 15, 2020 - Health

Cuomo says contact tracing needs to ramp up before economy can reopen

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo compared scaling up testing and contact tracing to the degree necessary to reopen the economy during the coronavirus pandemic to "trying to get Apollo 13 back to Earth 220,000 miles, 50 years ago."

Why it matters: The governor said at a briefing Wednesday that along with COVID-19 testing, contact tracing — tracking down the people who have interacted with a coronavirus patient, so they can quarantine — is a key component to the "phased reopening of the economy" when the outbreak is under control in New York.

The big picture: The U.S. is far behind on contact tracing, and neither local or federal governments have a plan to ramp it up, writes Axios' Caitlin Owens.

  • Once we begin to lift social distancing measures, we’ll have to immediately implement these basic public health measures to avoid the caseload from immediately increasing.
  • "It is a very difficult task. It can't be done perfectly. I can tell you that right now," Cuomo said. "But we can do better than we're doing."

Cuomo acknowledged it will be up to the states to conduct the tracing. But, he said, the states that have been hardest hit by the pandemic "cannot do the testing and tracing without federal assistance."

What he's saying:

"So do no harm, don't go backwards. Hope we find a medical treatment between now and 18 months. In the meantime, testing, tracing, testing, tracing, trying to get that up to scale, which is going to be the equivalent of trying to get Apollo 13 back to Earth 220,000 miles, 50 years ago. It is a very difficult task. ... But we can do better than we're doing. And in the meantime, a phased reopening of the economy as educated by testing, tracing.
The states that have a large problem cannot do the testing and tracing without federal assistance. ... On the reopening, we can do and we have a blueprint for the reopening. Again, as guided by testing, tracing. But there are two factors really on the reopening: How essential is the business, service or product or function? ... And then second, what is the risk of infection spread of that business?"
— Gov. Andrew Cuomo
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