Proposed coronavirus tracking program asks Congress for $3.6B to hire workers

A new Johns Hopkins proposal aims at putting an aggressive contact tracing program in place to help isolate the sick as well as those who have been exposed to the coronavirus.

“It’s a way of getting ahead of the virus rather than always chasing it from behind,” said Anita Cicero, deputy director at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, headquartered in Maryland. “There’s no sense having the tests if we’re not going to then contact all of the people who could have been exposed to sick people.”

She said her department’s plan outlines the need for increased tracing of the contact that coronavirus patients made before their diagnosis.

“We know how to do this, but the problem is that public health doesn’t have enough people or resources now to trace all of the contacts that are necessary for COVID-19, because it really is an unprecedented and vast job that needs to be done,” Cicero said.

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The proposal asks Congress to include $3.6 billion in the fourth stimulus package to hire 100,000 health workers at the rate of $17 per hour for a national program. The plan would distribute funds state-by-state based on the caseload.

The public health workers would call and ask the patients who they came in close contact with so that those people could be quarantined and monitored.

“That really involves testing, tracing contacts, quarantining those who were exposed, and isolating the people who are sick so that the rest of the people could get back to work,” Cicero said.

She said that with the funding the program could be rolled out fairly quickly with some simple training.

“This is something that really anyone with a high school degree and good interpersonal skills can be quickly trained to do,” she said.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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