Contact tracers have struggled for months to manage the massive undertaking of effectively tracking and stopping the chain of coronavirus infections in the region. Now they face a new challenge: bracing for a possible explosion of cases during the holiday season with only their existing slate of resources.
As the pandemic has stretched into its ninth month and fatigue with coronavirus-related restrictions has set in, cases in the D.C. region have soared to levels not seen since the spring.
DCist/WAMU reporters spoke with local officials and public health experts throughout the region to review what they are learning about how COVID-19 is spreading through communities, and to understand how effective local contact tracing efforts have been up to this point in the pandemic. Read full article.
Mullan Institute director, Dr. Patricia (Polly) Pittman was quoted in an article by the Associated Press that also appeared in The Washington Post.
Public health programs in the United States have seen a surge in enrollment as the coronavirus has swept through the country, killing more than 247,000 people. As state and local public health departments struggle with unprecedented challenges — slashed budgets, surging demand, staff departures and even threats to workers’ safety —- a new generation is entering the field. Read full article.
A look at some individual states makes it clear that the workforce has not reached the scale required in several places. For instance, Arkansas recently announced plans to hire 350 new contact tracers, which would bring its total to about 900. But based on the number of current cases, the state actually needs 3,722 tracers, according to a contact-tracing-workforce estimator developed by the Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity at George Washington University. In Florida, where the pandemic is surging terribly, the same estimator calculates that 291 tracers per 100,000 residents are needed. Yet as of early July, the state had only seven per 100,000. And cases of COVID-19 surged in Texas, even as contact tracers working for the Texas Department of State Health Services were taken off the job. Read full article here.
Contact tracing held the promise of giving officials a tool to get ahead of COVID-19's spread, but a new national study found tracers have yet to overcome Americans' suspicion of the process, and the obstacles presented by people's phone habits. The findings come as a new wave of cases surge nationwide, and in Pennsylvania daily case counts have eclipsed highs reported in the spring and overwhelmed the state's ability to track them. "I think if we were contact tracing effectively we would not be in the place we are," said Edward Salsberg, a George Washington University researcher who has studied effective contact tracing. Read full article.