The announcement comes after Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled New York City’s plan to do the same.
Elected officials have said that in order to get to the next step in the fight against COVID-19 it will first require vast amounts of testing.
The focus will be to test, trace and isolate to ultimately stop the spread. As Cuomo put it, it’s a massive undertaking.
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De Blasio mapped out what this new plan would look like once the city has enough testing capacity, and how we will get there.
“This is how we ultimately defeat this disease,” de Blasio said.
Christine Lavin told CBS2’s Dick Brennan she went through repeated tests after being exposed at school in Pelham where she teaches.
“I tested first negative, then I tested again positive, then I tested again negative,” she said. “I’m in quarantine, I can’t be near anybody because I don’t know if I’m contagious or not … Nobody asked me about tracing while I was tested and I think it’s a very important question to ask.”
With the city’s new program “Test and Trace,” which, just like its name, begins with widespread testing which de Blasio is aiming to make available in every community.
“Even though we don’t have the testing that we need today, we’re gonna keep fighting for and we want all the other building blocks to be in place more and more each day,” de Blasio said.
The city will be manufacturing its own tests beginning in May but is again calling on the federal government to help expand production.
When you test, if your results are positive, the next step is trace who’ve you been in contact with.
“Literally follow up with each and every one of those people, get them tested,” de Blasio said.
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De Blasio said the city is striving to have widespread testing available in every community. New Yorkers who test positive would be given care “right away,” and if they’re unable to isolate properly, will be placed in hotel rooms.
“We’ll get you the help you need. The whole idea is to help you to isolate to get well, to have the support you need, and of course get tested again to know when you’re done with the disease so you can go back to your regular life,” de Blasio said. “That’s what this plan is all about. That’s the building blocks we’re putting in place now, the hotel rooms, and all the support that goes with it.”
“We have to keep doing it to the point where, in a perfect world, we literally can see every single person in the city who has the coronavirus at that time, and we know exactly where they are and exactly the help they’re getting,” he added. “It’s gonna take thousands and thousands of people to do this right and we’re putting that team together now.”
That could mean thousands of people in isolation, potentially.
Web Extra: See de Blasio’s ‘Test & Trace’ Presentation (.pdf)
“Obviously, a city of this size, we could be talking about thousands of people in isolation at a given point, tens of thousands. We don’t know the number yet. But we do know that we’re going to build an apparatus that will keep expanding to accommodate whatever that true number is, because it’s the only way we protect people and it’s the only way we drive this disease back,” de Blasio said.
The only way this could be done, Cuomo says, is a group effort, announcing a Tri-State operation with New Jersey and Connecticut.
“You test a person. If the person winds up positive, you then trace that person’s contacts – contact tracing,” Cuomo explained. “You have to start with a large number of tests, and we set as a goal yesterday to double the number of state tests, to go fro. 20,000 on average to 40,000. That is just about the maximum capacity for all of the laboratory machines in this state.
“Once you do all those tests, every positive you have to go back and trace. The tracing is a very big, big deal,” he added. “Once you trace and you find more positives, then you isolate the positives.”
A “tracing army” will be formed to make sure all cases are accounted for. This includes state medical students.
Helping to lead that army will be former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who volunteered to help, develop and implement the program, also committing more than $10 million of his own money.
“It is going to require a lot of attention, a lot of insight, a lot of experience and a lot of resources. We’re also going to be partnering with Johns Hopkins and Vital Strategies in putting together that tracing operation,” Cuomo said.
Bloomberg will work with Johns Hopkins University to design the state’s contact tracing program, recruit and train staff and coordinate with New Jersey and Connecticut.
“He’s had quite a bit of experience in this area. It’s a very big undertaking, and we thank him very much for taking it on,” said the governor. “It is going to require a lot of attention, a lot of insight, a lot of experience and a lot of resources.”
“You’ve never heard the words ‘testing, tracing, isolate’ before. No one has,” Cuomo said. “Who cares that you’ve never done it. That’s really irrelevant. It’s what we have to do now. So figure out how to do it.”
Towns like Westport, Connecticut, are already doing high-tech sleuthing with a test drone program just getting off the ground.
The drones are armed with cameras that provide data including social distancing, heart rate and fever detection.
But tracing contacts is nothing new.
“The United States has a long history of contact tracing,” said David Harvey, the executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors.
Harvey says the U.S. has a tracing infrastructure born out of past diseases.
“There is contact tracing for TB, HIV and anytime you have a food-borne illness outbreak, contact tracers are involved, as they were involved with Zika and Ebola,” Harvey said.
The experts say tracing works, but this is a future strategy for when the numbers start to come down.
“We are weeks away from really being able to move into the phase of containment and very active contact tracing. That means, though, we have to act today to get that system, to get those people in place,” Harvey said.
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The mayor said a particular focus will be on NYCHA residents. The city will add six more testing sites in the coming days near NYCHA developments, with NYCHA residents being prioritized for testing.
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- Cumberland Health Center, Crown Heights
- Belvis Health Center, Mott Haven
- Gouverneur Health Center, Lower East Side
Opening Next Week: NYCHA Testing Sites
- Jonathan Williams Houses, Williamsburg
- Woodside Houses, Woodside
- St. Nicholas Houses, Harlem
De Blasio said the city would begin delivering food directly to NYCHA senior buildings, and will also start delivering tablets to some residents to help them connect with family members.
As far as the daily indicators tracking the virus goes:
- People admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19: 252, up from 204
- People currently in H+H ICUs for suspected COVID-19: 821, down from 857
- Percentage of people tested who are positive for COVID-19 citywide: 33%, down from 35%
The mayor also announced that some version of the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks will go forward.