Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced that it's supporting states in helping them build and execute contact tracing programs to control the spread of COVID-19.
A major contract tracing program is getting underway in New York with hopes that it will prevent the spread of coronavirus and serve as a model for other states trying to quell their own outbreaks.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg have teamed up to launch the program.
Kelly Larson, program director for Bloomberg Philanthropies, told Cheddar Friday the organization is providing support to the state in four areas: online training, technical support, recruitment, and evaluation.
“We are also providing technical support to the state, in helping them ramp up this contact tracing program," she said. "The governor announced that the state would hire up to 17,000 contact tracers and so, we’re also helping them with recruitment.”
Contact tracing, which has been used to stymie the spread of diseases such as HIV, Ebola and tuberculosis, is a public health strategy that allows officials to identify people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus and don't know it.
Larson said organizers are working at “exponential speed” to get the program up and running. The pilot program will run throughout the state of New York, beginning in low-risk regions upstate and will make its way down to New York City in the coming weeks.
Over 30,000 people have applied for the contact tracing positions. However, the number of new COVID-19 cases will determine how many contact tracers are actually needed.
“What we need to look at is the number of new cases. As the number of those new cases go down, it will require fewer contact tracers. If, in fact, we loosen restrictions a bit and we see people tested with COVID go up, we’ll need to increase the number of contact tracers,” Larson said.
Bloomberg Philanthropies plans to share its evaluations with other states so they can provide support in controlling the spread of the virus across the country.
“We know that there will be mistakes, there will be opportunities to learn lessons, and we want to learn from those lessons and share this model with other states around the country, if not the world,” she said.