‘Very aggressive’ contact tracing needed for U.S. to return to normal, says CDC director

‘Very aggressive’ contact tracing needed for U.S. to return to normal, says CDC director

NPR reports:

It’s the question on everyone’s minds: What will it take for us to come out of this period of extreme social distancing and return to some semblance of normal life?

It turns out that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been working on a plan to allow the U.S. to safely begin to scale back those policies. CDC Director Robert Redfield spoke with NPR on Thursday, saying that the plan relies on not only ramped-up testing but “very aggressive” contact tracing of those who do test positive for the coronavirus, and a major scale-up of personnel to do the necessary work.

Contact tracing is the process of finding and reaching out to the contacts of someone who tests positive for an infectious pathogen. Those contacts are then quarantined or monitored, and if any of them are also positive, the process is repeated with their contacts, and on and on, until the chain of transmission is halted. It’s a labor-intensive, time-consuming practice that for decades has been a fundamental public health tool for containing infectious diseases.

Contact tracing was used in Seattle and parts of California early on in their coronavirus outbreaks, but as community spread took hold, many cities and states switched to a “mitigation” approach, like closing schools and other social distancing measures. Now, much of the country is on lockdown (with a few exceptions).

To be ready for those measures to ease up, Redfield said his agency is ramping up America’s capacity to do more contact tracing. “We are going to need a substantial expansion of public health fieldworkers,” he said. This, along with ample testing, is what will be needed “to make sure that when we open up, we open up for good.” [Continue reading…]

Comments are closed.