Contact tracing begins in New York City with outreach to 600 people
New York City contact tracers hired to contain the spread of the coronavirus reached out to all of the roughly 600 people who tested positive for the virus citywide on Monday, the first day of the program, and succeeded in reaching more than half of them, officials said Tuesday.
“On day one of the program, seeking to reach several hundred people and have what could be an hour’s conversation with each of them was a tall order,” Dr. Ted Long, head of the city’s contact tracing program, noted at a briefing. Long said the fact that the contact tracers actually got through to more than half of the new cases “shows that the system we’re setting up is working.”
The city has hired 1,700 people for its contact tracing effort and needs to reach 2,500 in order to meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s target for entering the first phase of the state’s four-step reopening process. The contact tracers are placing people infected with the virus in hotel rooms if they need to isolate themselves from their families as well as reaching out to the close contacts of those who test positive for COVID-19.
Asked if the past week’s protests over the death of George Floyd might spark a new wave of infections, Long encouraged anyone who was at a protest to get tested for the coronavirus at one of the more than 150 free testing sites around the city. Floyd, who was black, died after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes.
“It starts with the testing piece, which is why we’re extending the invitation to anybody that’s been out there at the protests. Come in for a free test. It’s close to where you live,” Long said. “We’d love to have you.”
COVID-19 hospitalizations are down in New York, with an average of 154 admissions a day, compared with more than 3,000 daily at the peak of the outbreak. More than 24,000 deaths statewide have been reported in the outbreak, but the daily death toll has been under 60 for several days, with 58 new deaths recorded Monday.
Buffalo and western New York on Tuesday became the latest region of the state allowed to reopen hair salons, retail shops, and offices under strict guidelines. The Albany area was on track to also move to “phase two” reopenings on Wednesday.
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