NYC Health + Hospitals plans 874 layoffs when universal contact tracing ends

NYC Test & Trace Corps, the city's initiative for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, is ending universal contact tracing by the end of April. NYC Health + Hospitals, which leads the program in collaboration with the city's department of health and other agencies, is planning to lay off 874 workers when the program scales back, according to a notice filed with state regulators March 4. 

"Due to the reduced need for COVID-19 contact tracing efforts within the City of New York and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] recommendation to cease universal COVID-19 contact tracing programs, NYC Health + Hospitals will be permanently separating 874 employees of the Test and Trace Program," reads the notice to state regulators. 

The health system said affected temporary employees will be laid off at the end of April. Managerial employees affected by the layoffs will have their employment terminated between May 13 and May 27, according to the notice. 

New York City's main COVID-19 testing and contact tracing program is scaling back after the CDC said it no longer recommends universal COVID-19 case investigation and contact tracing to track and contain COVID-19. The updated guidance, issued Feb. 28, came nearly two years after the agency called for 100,000 U.S. contact tracers to mitigate virus spread. 

The decision to end universal contact tracing in New York City also stems from other factors, including increased vaccination rates and new medications, according to The New York Times. About 87 percent of adults in New York City are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The CDC still recommends contact tracing in high-risk settings, such as long-term care facilities, jails and prisons. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will conduct contact tracing in these settings with support by Test & Trace, according to Crain's New York Business

The Test & Trace program's testing portion will continue. The program's approximately 2,000 full-time contact tracers have been invited to apply for positions at the health department and other city agencies, Ted Long, MD, senior vice president of ambulatory care at NYC Health + Hospitals and executive director of Test & Trace Corps, told Crain's

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