Contact tracing is touted by medical experts as a key component to containing the coronavirus pandemic.
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The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, or ASTHO, along with the National Governors Association, released its latest recommendations, titled Road Map To Recovery. It’s a comprehensive guide for Governors as they work on plans to reopen their states.
In it, the organizations request $3.6 billion in emergency funding from Congress to expand the contact tracing workforce to 100,000 people nationwide. The report even points to Florida’s tapping of universities and colleges as a way to go about it.
“Epidemiology students and now broadening it to public health students has really been a natural fit,” said Dr. Cindy Prins, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Florida.
Dr. Prins said 30 students from the university were among the 100 hired across the state last month, to help the Florida Department of Health with its contact tracing efforts.
“Epidemiology is detective work in general,” Prins said. “I always equate it to trying to solve a puzzle.”
In another report by ASTHO, in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University, the recommended number of contact tracing workers is 4 to 81 tracers per every 100,000 people, depending on the level of illness. With an estimated 21.5 million people living in Florida, at least 860 tracers would be needed to meet that recommendation.
Currently, the Florida Department of Health has about 500 epidemiologists dedicated to the Covid-19 response, though it’s not clear how many are specifically dedicated to contact tracing.
At this time, Gov. Ron Desantis has not revealed what additional public health measures will be rolled out as part of the state’s reopening plan.