As US COVID-19 cases fall, 'this is contact tracing's moment,' experts say

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Now that COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are dropping and 42 percent of the country's population is fully vaccinated, contact tracers are able to keep up with identifying people who may have been exposed to the disease, ABC News reported June 3. 

"I really think this is contact tracing's moment, because those original bottlenecks that were preventing us from being able to really impact transmission have been essentially eliminated in most places," Melissa Boyette, contact tracing technical adviser for the U.S. COVID-19 response program with Resolve to Save Lives, told ABC

In April 2020, the U.S. had just 11,142 contact tracers employed across state health departments, NPR reported. By December, that rose to 70,000, though public health experts had told Congress an effective contact tracing workforce for the country would need to employ at least 100,000 people. 

Now, as the seven-day average for new cases in the U.S. has dropped to 14,031 — numbers not seen since March 2020 — the contact tracing workforce can better follow chains of transmission. 

In New York City, for example, where new cases have fallen to less than 500 new cases per week on average, contact tracers are reaching 97 percent of cases, according to the ABC report. 

"It's going to be the summer of outbreak hunting," Ted Long, MD, of the city's COVID-19 Test & Trace Corps, told the news outlet. 

The city is also sending contact tracers equipped with mobile vaccine and testing units to areas experiencing the outbreaks, connecting contact tracers to the most vulnerable populations "who need vaccines, who need support, who need food packages and cleaning supplies and masks to safely isolate and quarantine," Ms. Boyette said. 

Since breakthrough cases, or infection after vaccination, can occur, contact tracing is critical even for those who are fully vaccinated, experts told ABC News, who added it's not yet certain as to whether people with breakthrough infections can spread the virus to others. 

 

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