CUNY students in the medical field will be among thousands of COVID-19 contact tracers

Centers for Disease Control

Centers for Disease Control

Angelica Tejada

Hundreds of CUNY students in the medical field will be among the thousands of coronavirus contact tracers in a joint effort being led by New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg to control the coronavirus infection rate and speed up the safe reopening of the economy.

The contact tracing program will launch immediately in coordination with the Downstate Region, New Jersey and Connecticut. This program is a collaboration of New York State and Bloomberg Philanthropies, which Bloomberg is the founder of.

Tracers have to go through a training program and pass an online exam. The New York State Department of Health and Bloomberg Philanthropies are working together to identify and recruit candidates for the program.

The pool of tracer candidates includes hundreds of SUNY and CUNY students in medical fields, staff from the NYSDOH, investigators from various state agencies and hundreds of tracers from downstate counties.

The Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University is building an online curriculum and training program for contact tracers. Contact tracing teams will work remotely to develop a secure database of information on the spread of COVID-19.

“You need 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 people who are in the infected area. Statewide that would be about 6,400 to 17,000 tracers depending on what happens on the testing rate. The more people test positive, the more tracers,” Cuomo said during his daily press briefing on April 30.

Contact tracing helps prevent and monitor the spread of the coronavirus by following these four steps: First, labs report positive cases to contact tracers. Then the contact tracers will interview the positive individuals to identify people that they may have been in contact with over the past 14 days. With the contacts, the contact tracer will notify and interview each one to alert them about their risk of infection and instruct them to self-quarantine or isolate for 14 days. Lastly, the contact tracer will remain in contact with the individuals over the 14 days of isolation to see if they start to show any COVID-19-related symptoms.

“We know increasing our testing capacity is the key to re-opening New York, and the second step after testing is tracing to find out who tested positive, who they contacted and then isolate those people so you don’t increase the rate of infection,” Cuomo said. “Tracing is not hard on an individual basis — the problem is the massive scale and with an operation that has never existed before. We need our contact tracing program to come up to scale to meet what we’re doing with testing as soon as possible, and we are working with Bloomberg now to build an army of tracers to meet the state’s demand so we can begin this operation immediately.”

Contact tracing is a public health tool that can help contain the virus and is needed to ensure that counties can safely begin to reopen.

“Several countries, such as Germany, Singapore and South Korea, have used contact tracing effectively amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. As a result, those countries have been able to re-open for business quickly and have experienced fewer deaths and lower rates of infection,” Patch reported.