Public health agencies work to ramp up virus tracking
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Public health experts say contact tracing systems should be in place before cases become widespread, so every new infection can be tracked and the person’s contacts identified, tested and isolated from the rest of the community.
Until recently, there had been scant federal guidance on what contact tracing should look like, and there is still no coordinated federal strategy. While other countries are taking a national approach to contact tracing, the U.S. is leaving it to states to devise their own programs.
Contact tracing was one of the “core state preparedness responsibilities” outlined in the White House guidelines for reopening the country, but governors have been pressing ahead with lifting restrictions without having comprehensive programs in place.
While there is no federal formula for how many of the disease detectives are needed, public health experts have said one contact tracer is needed for every 1,000 to 3,000 residents in the U.S., or between 100,000 and 300,000 nationally. For Georgia, that would be between 3,333 and 10,000.
During congressional testimony this past week, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, reiterated his concern that parts of the U.S. might be easing restrictions too early without having the ability to respond effectively to an increase in cases with “good identification, isolation and contact tracing.”
Under California’s criteria for a broader reopening, counties should have 15 people trained in contact tracing for every 100,000 residents. The state is helping, working to train between 10,000 and 20,000 tracers, but most large counties are falling short.
San Diego County, home to 3.3 million people, had 171 contact investigators on the job with plans to have 450 as soon as possible. In Orange County, which has about 3.1 million residents, about 75 staffers are assigned to investigating cases and tracing contacts.
Dr. Mona Hacker joined Good Morning San Diego to discuss the CDC contact tracing guidelines and what they mean to reopening San Diego.