New York City is now expanding those efforts with 12 new testing sites and hundreds of contact tracers currently undergoing training.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city’s public hospitals and clinics average 5,100 tests a day across 23 sites.
He plans to launch 12 new sites over the next three weeks, more than doubling that capacity to 10,700 a day.
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People with public health backgrounds are encouraged to apply online at nyc.gov/traceteam.
De Blasio said the goal is to have 2,500 contact tracers in play by early June.
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On the state level, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said there will be 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 individuals. They will start with department of health employees and other government employees not currently working, then hire thousands of helpers.
In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy said the state will likely need “at least 1,000 dedicated contact tracers to complement the hundreds.”
So how do you raise an army that quickly?
“We’re beginning to see a number of tools come online which are very much needed,” said David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors.
Johns Hopkins partnered with Bloomberg Philanthropies to create the five-hour training program.
“It will cover all the basic information of epidemics, contact tracing and privacy. There’s also a test at the end of the training which you have to pass in order to be hired,” former Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a press conference with Cuomo.
“It allows a city or a state to respond to new cases, to shut down chains of transmission, to block the virus from moving,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Google and Apple have also jumped in, the arch-rivals actually teaming up to create operating systems for contact tracing.
The idea is to use your phone’s Bluetooth to track people who may have come in close proximity with a patient. They, in turn, would get an alert on their phones, perhaps warning about self-quarantining.
Experts are also giving the tech giants high marks for keeping your information safe.
“I think private entities such as Google and Apple are probably in a better position to handle the security and privacy of this data rather than the government,” said Quentin Rhoads-Herrera, director of professional services at Critical Start.
But states have been reluctant to sign on, in part because they believe the apps have major downsides.
“I have to say, I think these apps are largely dead on arrival,” Harvey told CBS2’s Dick Brennan. “Two reasons: those most at risk, older people, are probably not gonna use a smart phone app, and lower income communities don’t have great access always to the internet or expensive smart phones.”
In other words, no substitute for boots on the ground, and they’re gonna need a lot of them.