Contact tracing will be key factor in reopening U.S. economy

SPOKANE, Wash.– About 1,500 people are going to help Washington reopen its economy by tracking down those who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Gov. Inslee said these contact tracers will allow some people back into the community in the near future without spreading the virus.

This process will take months, and it all starts with identifying a person who has COVID-19.

Volunteers will then make sure that person is isolated and receiving the proper food, medicine, and state benefits they need.

They’ll keep in touch with that person for at least 14 days.

The volunteers will also interview that person to see who they’ve been in close contact with. That could be anyone who has been within 6 feet of that person for more than 10 minutes.

The volunteers then reach out to that group of close contacts and make sure they get tested if they are experiencing any coronavirus symptoms.

If they don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms or are asymptomatic, the volunteers will still ask the person to quarantine for 14 days.

It’s a lengthy process, but it’s the only way we can open our economy back up.

“It can be very labor-intensive, and it can also be very taxing emotionally,” Dr. Bob Lutz of Spokane Regional Health said.

Washington is already training 700 volunteers to be contact tracers, and there are plans to hire another 800 by the second week of May.

Half of those volunteers are health professionals and members of the Washington National Guard.

“It’s complicated, it’s something that I don’t think anytime in the recent past that the country has attempted,” Lutz said.

The Washington Department of Health said it will take about 4 hours to isolate each confirmed case and everyone they have been in contact with.

The Panhandle Health District in Idaho is following the same approach. In fact, they’ve already traced more than 300 people from 65 cases of COVID-19.

Contact tracing will slowly allow healthy people to get back into the community.

According to NPR, anywhere from 100,000-300,000 volunteers will be needed to contact trace across the United States.

Testing is also the other critical factor to this pandemic.

Gov. Inslee said that is still lacking here in Washington.

“The federal government has not provided us adequate test kits to actually test as many people as we want to test,” Inslee said.

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