May 5, 2020 - Health

What to know about contact tracing

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

First it was testing and PPE, then ventilators: The next big coronavirus hurdle for the U.S. is contact tracing.

Why it matters: This is a must-have for reopening while limiting the death toll.

The big picture: Contact tracing is a simple concept. Most countries use a combination of cellphone apps and human contact tracers to track down everyone who came into contact with an infected patient.

  • Those people are then tested and isolated if positive.
  • If you act quickly enough, outbreaks can be contained before becoming hotspots.

Humans are slow and do the process manually, much like a journalist reporting out a story.

  • Apps are fast, using Bluetooth signals to rapidly tell you who you came into contact with. But they come with major privacy and effectiveness concerns.
  • Apple and Google have pushed for public health agencies to adopt their privacy-oriented model, the AP reports. The tech firms are offering an app-building interface they say will work smoothly on billions of phones when the software rolls out sometime this month.

Between the lines: The U.S. has made big strides on testing, but we still don't have the scale needed to pull this off.

  • NPR found that states plan to hire more than 36,000 contact tracing staffers in the short-term.
  • But Johns Hopkins estimates the number needed exceeds 100,000.

The bottom line: Contact tracing won't realistically slow the current out-of-control outbreaks in the U.S, but if we get the people, tech and funding fixed fast, it could help alleviate some of the pain from wave two.

Go deeper: Contact tracing is the next big hurdle in the push to re-open cities

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

Florida reported on Wednesday its largest number of new novel coronavirus cases in a single day since April 17. 1,317 people tested positive to take the state total to 58,764, per the state's health department. Despite the rise, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said bars and clubs could reopen on Friday.

By the numbers: More than 107,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus and over 1.8 million people have tested positive, per data from Johns Hopkins. More than 479,000 Americans have recovered and over 18 million tests have been conducted.

Coronavirus cases spike in Texas and Arizona

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise, Naema Ahmed/Axios

Texas, Arizona and Oregon saw significant spikes last week in new coronavirus infections, while cases also continued to climb in a handful of states where steady increases have become the norm.

Why it matters: Nationwide, new cases have plateaued over the past week. To get through this crisis and safely continue getting back out into the world, we need them to go down — a lot.

1.9 million Americans filed for unemployment last week

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Another roughly 1.9 million people filed for unemployment last week, the Department of Labor said on Thursday.

The big picture: The coronavirus pandemic is still putting a historic strain on the labor market, though the pace of unemployment applications continues to slow.