We Asked All 50 States About Their Contact Tracing Capacity. Here's What We Learned
From NPR, April 27, 2020 (excerpts)
Asked what support each state could use from the federal government, several states — including Hawaii, Maine and Nevada — mentioned the need for funding to hire or train new contact tracers….
States are eager to open up and get people back to work, but how do they do that without risking new coronavirus flare-ups? Public health leaders widely agree that communities need to ramp up capacity to test, trace and isolate. The idea behind this public health mantra is simple: Keep the virus in check by having teams of public health workers — epidemiologists, nurses, trained citizens — identify new positive cases, track down their contacts and help both the sick person and those who were exposed isolate themselves.
This is the strategy that has been proven to work in other countries, including China, South Korea and Germany. For it to work in the U.S., states and local communities will need ample testing and they'll need to expand their public health workforce. By a lot.
An influential group of former government officials released a letter Monday calling for a contact tracing workforce of 180,000. Other estimates of how many contact tracers are needed range from 100,000 to 300,000.
NPR surveyed all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia to ask them how many contact tracers they currently have — and how many they were planning to add, if any. We got data for 41 states and the District of Columbia and found they have in total approximately 7,602 workers who do contact tracing on staff now, with plans to surge to a total of 36,587….
How Many Contact Tracers Does Your State Have Per Capita?
Estimated need: 30 workers per 100,000 are needed during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to estimates from the National Association of County and City Health Officials. In nonemergency situations, 15 workers per 100,000 population are needed….
Hawaii does not meet estimated need for contact tracing.
- 30 -- CURRENT STAFFING LEVEL
- 60 -- PLANNED HIRES (raise staff to 90)
- 2.2 -- Current staffing level per 100K residents
- 4.2 -- Planned hires per 100K residents
- 6.4 -- PROJECTED TOTAL AFTER HIRES PER 100K RESIDENTS
- 15 -- Estimated need per 100K residents in non emergency situations (210 for 1.4M)
- 30 -- Estimated need per 100K residents for COVID-19 (420 for 1.4M)
read … Full Report
(IDEA: Cross-train employees from other areas that could be redeployed in emergencies.)