United States of Care reports on COVID-19 contact tracing

May 15, 2020

United States of Care says Congress should increase investment for contact tracing and self-isolation in the next federal COVID-19 relief package. 

States will continue to grapple with scaling contact tracing programs for the duration of the COVID pandemic with their existing resources. It is critically important that Congress appropriate additional funding for contact tracing in states and state legislatures continue to prioritize public health investments as they return in the coming months. As we learn to live with this deadly virus until a vaccine or curative treatment is discovered, contact tracing is an important tool which can help states keep their residents safe.

While states are launching creative approaches to meet this important need, federal funding will be necessary to scale and sustain this critical work.

·       States should continue to implement contact tracing programs as part of a comprehensive approach to stopping the spread of the disease.

·        United States of Care will monitor the progress of states and identify best practices that can lead to scalable and sustainable contact tracing solutions and programs.

·        United States of Care will leverage collective knowledge by connecting states and cross-sector leaders with models and resources to support the rapid development of contact tracing programs.

·        United States of Care will support the safety of all Americans by applying shared values and a people-centered lens to new approaches and solutions.

COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly through the United States and states need a frontline force to fight the spread. Critical components of this effort must include increased testing and contact tracing which will require funding levels states can’t currently afford. Contact tracing is a data-driven and effective public health strategy to slow and ideally stop the spread of communicable diseases – including COVID-19. Through contact tracing, public health officials inform individuals if they may have been exposed to the virus and encourage them to isolate during the 14-day incubation period. Public health experts have substantial experience in this method but few have ever had to ramp up a contact tracing program as quickly or to staff up to the levels this pandemic requires.

States under both Republican and Democratic leadership are ramping up contact tracing because it is a critical component to beginning to reopen schools and businesses while limiting the spread of Coronavirus. Technology can aid in contact tracing efforts, but contact tracing requires significant human capital in order to maintain daily communication with individuals who may have been infected. In addition, technology-based contact tracing tools should be vetted carefully to ensure they maintain appropriate privacy protections for individuals.

United States of Care has called on Congress to significantly increase its investment in contact tracing in the next federal COVID-19 relief package. In addition, former Acting CMS Administrator and USofCare Board Chair Andy Slavitt joined with former Trump Administration FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb to lead a letter of bipartisan public health experts calling on Congress to invest $46.5 billion for contact tracing and self-isolation. Congressional leaders are currently developing the next round of federal COVID-19 response and contact tracing is likely to be a critical component of the next effort. The agency has also recommended state policy makers continue to make investments in contact tracing as legislatures return in the coming weeks to complete their work. 

Nearly all states are conducting contact tracing for COVID-19 in some capacity. However, their approaches are dictated not only by the spread of the disease in their state, but also resources available to conduct contact tracing.  States are approaching contact tracing in a variety of ways: 

·        Hiring or Reassigning State and Local Government Employees

·        Contracting with Outside Vendors

·        Deploying the National Guard

·        Recruiting Volunteers

·        Utilizing Technology

United States of Care is monitoring state action on contact tracing and connecting leaders with models and resources to support their contact programs. The document below highlights ways states are ramping up contact tracing programs to keep their residents safe.

In Washington, officials are scaling up their contact tracing program to be deployed by the second week of May with the goal of a 1,500-person workforce including 500 from the National Guard. Governor Inslee announced a COVID-19 risk assessment dashboard with five metrics to gauge when and how to best lift restrictions around his Stay Home, Stay Healthy order. The state’s ability to conduct contact investigations is one of those metrics.

United States of Care has the report.

More COVID-19 coverage HERE.