NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – New York City has hired more than 1,700 contact tracers, who will be ready for duty by June 1, the mayor says.
The mayor said 12 new testing sites will open next month, bringing the total to more than 180 by the end of June.
He also said 16 AdvantageCare Physicians locations will start offering tests next week.
Testing is free of charge for those who do not have insurance. Anyone experiencing symptoms or who has been in close contact with a positive patient is encouraged to get tested, along with anyone working in nursing homes, adult care facilities or shelters.
The city expects to complete 50,000 tests per day by August 1.
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The newly hired contact tracers fall into two groups: Case investigators and monitors.
Case investigators will call patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and ask about their contacts, and monitors will follow up with those contacts.
Additionally, tracers will ask people if they need help with things like utilities, food or medication and can set people up in hotel rooms if they need somewhere to isolate.
So far, the city has 938 case investigators, and 410 of them are from the communities that were hit the hardest by the pandemic. They speak a total of 40 languages.
Of the 770 monitors, 331 come from the most impacted areas, and 40% speak Spanish.
“It’s so important that the contact tracers we use are people from the community in which they’re working, because they’re the trusted people that when they’re talking to somebody on the phone they can really get that critical information about who they’ve been in contact with,” said Dr. Ted Long, who heads the program.
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CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas asked whether officials are concerned people might not be willing to share their contacts.
“I think it’s a legitimate point and legitimate concern you’re raising – Is everyone going to want to be as forthcoming as they might be with information? I think the answer is – everyone? No. We’re still dealing with human being here,” said de Blasio. “Do I think the vast majority of people are going to be forthcoming? Absolutely, because people understand what we’re up against here.”
The mayor said the indicators continue to move in the right direction and he anticipates phase 1 of reopening will begin in mid-June.
The latest data show 63 new hospitalizations, 423 ICU patients and 7% of people testing positive.
The goal is to keep hospitalizations below 200, ICU patients under 375 and the percentage below 15.