There’s just a handful of interventions proven to curb the spread of the coronavirus. One of them is contact tracing, and “it’s not going well,” White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday.
Contact tracing occurs when trained personnel contact infected people to investigate where they might have been infected and who they might have exposed to the virus. Along with widespread testing and ability to isolate potentially infectious people, tracing is an age-old public health intervention now being ramped up at an unprecedented scale.
“It’s not going well. I have to tell you, it’s not going well,” Fauci said in an interview with CNBC’s Meg Tirrell that was aired by the Milken Institute. “What we need to do is we need to rethink, and we are right now, the idea of many more tests getting into the community and even pooling tests.”
The White House advised states not to reopen until they had built the infrastructure to conduct widespread testing and contact tracing, though the federal government did not specify what a robust tracing infrastructure would look like. Rather than developing a coordinated national tracing plan, which some countries, such as Germany, have done, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sought instead to support local efforts.
Earlier this week, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield testified that about 27,000 or 28,000 people are doing contact tracing work across the country. He later acknowledged that he estimates the necessary workforce to be about 100,000 tracers. Former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden thinks the country will need even more, up to 300,000.