Apr 14, 2020 - Health

The latest coronavirus red flag: contact tracing

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Widespread contact tracing will be key to the next phase of our coronavirus response, but the U.S. is severely behind.

Why it matters: Contact tracing — tracking down the people who have interacted with a coronavirus patient, so they can quarantine — helps prevent the virus from spreading.

As with diagnostic testing, the U.S. missed its chance to do this before the coronavirus caseload got too high.

  • But once we begin to lift our social distancing measures, we’ll have to immediately implement these basic public health measures to avoid the caseload from immediately ramping back up.

Where it stands: Neither the federal government nor most state and local governments have a plan to drastically increase contact tracing.

  • A recent report by Johns Hopkins’ Center for Health Security estimated that the public health workforce would need to add about 100,000 new workers to do contact tracing.
  • We also don’t have the diagnostic testing capacity that experts say we’d need to safety phase into normal life.

What they’re saying: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield told NPR last week that the agency is working on a plan to ramp up contact tracing.

  • "We have over 600 people in the field right now from CDC in all the states trying to help with this response, but we are going to have to substantially amplify that," he added.

Yes, but: Some states and communities are trying to get ahead of the curve.

  • Massachusetts, for example, is working to deploy nearly 1,000 contact tracers.
  • Apple and Google last week announced a joint effort to notify people via smartphone — on a voluntary basis — if they've come into contact with someone with the coronavirus, Axios’ Ina Fried reports.

The bottom line: "Failing to invest in and train more workers for contact tracing now could extend this crisis months," said Chris Meekins, a former Trump administration health official who is now an analyst at Raymond James.

Go deeper:

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Increased armed presence planned for D.C. tonight

Demonstrators stand around a fire during a protest near the White House in response to the killing of George Floyd. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Government officials say plans are in place for a significantly heavier armed presence on the streets of Washington, D.C. tonight in response to the increasingly violent protests linked to the death of George Floyd.

What we're hearing: "Tonight you will see increased presence, both police...other agencies, and National Guard presence," a source familiar with the government's plans said.

Updated 34 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 6,226,408 — Total deaths: 373,973 — Total recoveries — 2,672,161Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 1,799,747 — Total deaths: 104,702 — Total recoveries: 444,758 — Total tested: 16,936,891Map.
  3. Public health: Nearly 26,000 coronavirus deaths in nursing homes have been reported to federal health officials —Coronavirus looms over George Floyd protests across the country.
  4. Federal government: Trump lashes out at governors, calls for National Guard to "dominate" streets.
  5. World: Former FDA commissioner says "this is not the time" to cut ties with WHO.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: The virus didn't go away.

New York City to impose curfew amid ongoing protests

Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

New York City will be placed under curfew on Monday from 11pm until 5am Tuesday morning following days of protests over the death of George Floyd, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday.

The big picture: Demonstrations in New York, like in cities across the country, turned violent over the weekend as protesters clashed with police late into the night. The number of police officers on the streets of New York will double from 4,000 to 8,000.