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For states that are gearing up to reopen despite the presence of coronavirus in the country, precaution is of the utmost importance to ensure there aren’t any new outbreaks.
Contact tracing has been a popular and seemingly effective method for flattening the curve in China, South Korea and Germany, which requires infected patients to disclose everyone they have recently come in close contact with. The people who have been exposed to the virus are then notified by contact tracers and are urged to self-isolate to avoid potentially infecting others.
Being a contact tracer requires specialized skills such as maintaining confidentiality, interviewing, counseling, knowledge of how infection works and more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“To be done effectively, it requires people with the training, supervision, and access to social and medical support for patients and contacts,” the CDC explains.
Moreover, contact tracing roles tend to be salaried and provide benefits, two factors that are important for many in a pandemic-stricken economy.
How many contact tracers are the U.S. States hiring?
A survey published by National Public Radio on Monday found that 41 states and the District of Columbia have hired 7,602 contact tracers and plan to hire 36,587 more. Though it is a step in the right direction, the number of planned hires pales in comparison to the estimated need public health officials have suggested.
The current estimated need for contract tracers in the U.S. is 30 workers per 100,000 residents, according to estimates from the National Association of County and City Health Officials. In states that haven’t been hit hard with coronavirus cases, that number drops down to 15 workers per every 100,000.
So far, the only state that meets the current estimated need for contact tracers is North Dakota. The two states that are on track to meet their estimated need for contact tracers are Michigan and Nebraska in addition to Washington, D.C.
As of April 27, there was no data available for the following 10 states: Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Georgia, Virginia and West Virginia. The remaining 37 states currently do not meet the estimated need for contact tracers, however each has set numbers for planned hires.
Here is a breakdown of the planned contact tracer hires for the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, according to NPR’s survey.
Alabama: To be determined
Alaska: No data available at this time
Arizona: No data available at this time
Arkansas: 50 planned hires
California: 10,000 planned hires
Colorado: 50 planned hires
Connecticut: To be determined
Delaware: No data available at this time
District of Columbia: 148 planned hires
Florida: 0 planned hires
Georgia: No data available at this time
Hawaii: 60 planned hires
Idaho: No data available at this time
Illinois: No data available at this time
Indiana: No data available at this time
Iowa: 200 planned hires
Kansas: 400 planned hires
Kentucky: 700 planned hires
Louisiana: 700 planned hires
Maine: 15 planned hires
Maryland: 750 planned hires
Massachusetts: 1,000 planned hires
Michigan: 3,400 planned hires
Minnesota: 0 planned hires
Mississippi: 20 planned hires
Missouri: To be determined
Montana: 0 planned hires
Nebraska: 675 planned hires
Nevada: To be determined
New Hampshire: To be determined
New Jersey: 10 planned hires
New Mexico: To be determined
New York: 4,000 planned hires
North Carolina: 250 planned hires
North Dakota: 250 planned hires
Ohio: 1,065 planned hires
Oklahoma: 30 planned hires
Oregon: 600 planned hires
Pennsylvania: 0 planned hires
Rhode Island: 0 planned hires
South Carolina: To be determined
South Dakota: 41 planned hires
Tennessee: 150 planned hires
Texas: 2,850 planned hires
Utah: 30 planned hires
Vermont: 0 planned hires
Virginia: No data available at this time
Washington: 800 planned hires
West Virginia: No data available at this time
Wisconsin: 741 planned hires
Wyoming: 0 planned hires
NPR’s survey sourced records from state public health departments, NPR broadcasts and member station reporting in addition to local media reports and the National Association of County and City Health Officials. The number of planned hires reflects the data it obtained as of April 27 and will more than likely be updated as news develops.
In the U.S. there are more than one million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 60,800 deaths related to the respiratory illness as of Wednesday evening, according to data from the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard.
Bipartisan health leaders Andy Slavitt, a former director of Medicare and Medicaid during the Obama administration, and Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner from the Trump administration, wrote to Congress this week asking for the American contact tracing workforce to be expanded by 180,000 people until a vaccine becomes available. The feat would cost an estimated $12 billion.