US spent millions on COVID-19 contact tracing, but it did little to slow transmission, CDC study finds

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The U.S. launched COVID-19 contact tracing programs nationwide to slow the transmission of the virus, spending hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet the effort gave "suboptimal" results because only a third of infected residents were able to share their contact data, according to a June 3 study published in JAMA Network Open.

The study's authors include researchers from the CDC, 11 public health departments and one tribal nation.

Five things to know:

  1. The study found that contact tracing had "suboptimal" effects on COVID-19 transmission because 2 out of 3 infected people were not reached or refused to name contacts when interviewed.

  2. Although it's unclear the exact amount of funds that were allocated to contact tracing, the CDC said it put aside $631 million in April 2020 for states to launch contact tracing programs, The Washington Post reported.

  3. Public health leaders may consider the results when allocating resources among the various prevention strategies of COVID-19, the study said.

  4. In addition to concerns over the effectiveness of COVID-19 contact tracing, there have been privacy concerns raised. The Pennsylvania Department of Health and its contact tracing vendor were sued for allegedly failing to provide adequate cybersecurity measures to residents' protected health information after the data of 72,000 residents was publicly uploaded online.

  5. Many states used Google's contact tracing tool. The tech giant was sued for allegedly giving hundreds of third parties access to 28 million users' protected health information.
 

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