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

Go deeper

Coronavirus cases spike in Texas, Oregon 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.

Updated 11 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.

The Department of Health and Human Services moved on Thursday to require that an individual's race, ethnicity, age and sex be submitted to the agency with novel coronavirus test results.

Why it matters: Some cities and states have reported the virus is killing black people at disproportionately high rates. There are gaps in the national picture of how many people of color are affected, since the data has not been a requirement for states to collect or disclose.

12 hours ago - Health

HHS requests data on race and ethnicity with coronavirus test results

A nurse writes a note as a team of doctors and nurses performs a procedure on a coronavirus patient in the Regional Medical Center on May 21 in San Jose, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Department of Health and Human Services moved on Thursday to require that an individual's race, ethnicity, age and sex be submitted to the agency with novel coronavirus test results.

Why it matters: Some cities and states have reported the virus is killing black people at disproportionately high rates. There are gaps in the national picture of how many people of color are affected, since the data has not been a requirement for states to collect or disclose.