Most outlets argue that before the United States can reopen safely, a new massive workforce needs to be in place to trace the contacts of people diagnosed with COVID-19, according to a report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
Contact tracing is laborious, detailed and time-consuming detective work: Trained staff interview people who have been diagnosed with a contagious disease to figure out who they may have recently been in contact with. Then, they go tell those people they may have been exposed, sometimes encouraging them to quarantine themselves to prevent spreading the disease any further. Think of it as part public health work, and part investigation. The technique is a “cornerstone” of preventative medicine, says Dr. Laura Breeher, medical director of occupational health services at the Mayo Clinic. “Contact tracing, it’s having a moment of glory right now with COVID because of the crucial importance of identifying those individuals who have been exposed quickly and isolating or quarantining them,” she says.
A long-used public health tool, contact tracing aims to break the chain of transmission of a contagious disease by identifying and alerting those who may have been exposed to it. Traditionally, a trained contact tracer will interview an individual diagnosed with the disease to determine all of their recent contacts, then reach out to those contacts to provide further information—which may include a recommendation to self-quarantine. In the past, this meticulous strategy has been used to help control Ebola, SARS, sexually transmitted infections, and tuberculosis, among other communicable diseases.
With the global outbreak of COVID-19, public health experts believe contact tracing will be a critical step for containing the virus, alongside social distancing and widespread testing. Many countries have already deployed extensive contact tracing, including New Zealand, Iceland, Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea.
The United States, too, is gradually ramping up efforts—including a new hiring surge funded by the CDC, a Google/Apple tech partnership, and statewide programs. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is working with Bloomberg Philanthropies to launch their contact tracing program that will include online training from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“In the absence of a vaccine, we think this is really the big public health tool we have to control transmission of COVID-19,” according to Crystal Watson, lead author of the report and Assistant Professor in the Bloomberg School. “We need to push hard for this.”
Is this true that “contact tracing” is essential and valuable or is it an academic exercise? Write your discussion based on your readings on the applications and challenges of contact tracing; address the pro’s and con’s of contact tracing since this pandemic is no longer in its early stages of spread, the vast majority of infected individuals are asymptomatic and in New York, for example more that 60% of new infected individuals were sequestered “at home”. Also take into consideration, privacy, costs, and issues with the timing and accuracy of current diagnostic tests. With all of your passion, argument for or against massive contact tracing for COVID-19.
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