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:

Go deeper

Updated 45 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Americans feel Trump's sickness makes him harder to trustFlorida breaks record for in-person early voting.
  2. Health: The next wave is gaining steam.
  3. Education: Schools haven't become hotspots.
  4. World: Ireland moving back into lockdown — Argentina becomes 5th country to report 1 million infections.

Meadows confirms Trump's tweets "declassifying" Russia documents were false

Photo: Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows confirmed in court on Tuesday that President Trump's tweets authorizing the disclosure of documents related to the Russia investigation and Hillary Clinton's emails "were not self-executing declassification orders," after a federal judge demanded that Trump be asked about his intentions.

Why it matters: BuzzFeed News reporter Jason Leopold cited the tweets in an emergency motion seeking to gain access to special counsel Robert Mueller's unredacted report as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. This is the first time Trump himself has indicated, according to Meadows, that his tweets are not official directives.

2 hours ago - World

China embraces hostage diplomacy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Chinese government is threatening to detain foreign citizens unless their home governments do what Beijing demands. In some cases, China has already made good on those threats.

The big picture: This marks a potential evolution of China's "wolf warrior diplomacy" to outright rogue state behavior, putting it in the company of countries like North Korea and Iran, which have also engaged in hostage diplomacy.

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