CDC Director Says US Ready to Reopen but Thousands More Contact Tracers Needed

By Katabella Roberts

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this week said he feels the United States is ready to begin reopening but will need to expand testing and contact tracing to avoid a potential second wave of CCP virus in fall or winter.

“I want to clarify that the community-based transmission, the community to community transmission that overwhelmed the public health departments in late February, March, April—that’s really coming down,” Redfield said in an interview with The Hill on May 19.

“Right now, what CDC and the state public health systems are doing is we’re fighting outbreaks. We have nursing home outbreaks, and we’re going in and containing them. We are having meatpacking plants—containing them. Prison, homeless—containing them. Certain social events from a wedding or a funeral—containing them. And we’re going to continue to do that over the summer,” Redfield said, signaling states will have sufficient testing and contact tracing to follow the White House’s guidelines for reopening.

However, he noted the challenge would be ensuring there is enough testing and contact tracing for a potential second wave of the virus which could hit in the fall and winter months, coinciding with the annual influenza season.

The CDC director said public health institute will be expanding its capabilities as “in the fall/winter, we’re going to need a much more robust workforce because we’re going to make the mission that we’re going to stay in containment,” adding, “We can’t get to the point that we have to retreat from containment. I believe we’re going to get there.”

CDC building
Exterior of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) headquarters is seen on Oct. 13, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

Redfield said the CDC is looking to increase the contact tracing workforce nationwide by between 30,000 and 100,000 people. Contact tracers will help to quickly locate and talk with patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and will assist in arranging quarantine for them, as well as working with them to identify people they may have been in close contact with, according to the CDC website.

“Ultimately, that number [of contact tracers] is going to be decided by the efforts that we have with the local health departments,” Redfield said. “But that’s ongoing now, and it needs to be in place, operationally ready by October of this year.”

A number of states have been ramping up contact tracer recruitment efforts in recent weeks, with Kansas reportedly seeing 400 people volunteer, while in Utah, 1,200 have come forward. California is already conducting contact tracing in 22 counties, and it eventually plans to hire 10,000 state employees for the same effort, who will be given basic training by University of California health experts.

Meanwhile, Washington, West Virginia, Iowa, North Dakota, and Rhode Island are using their National Guards to trace contacts of those who have been infected with the virus, and Massachusetts and Ohio have partnered with global health nonprofit, Partners in Health, to assist them.

Maryland will partner with the University of Chicago and NORC, formerly the National Opinion Research Center, to quadruple its contact tracing capacity, according to The Hill.

Elsewhere in the interview, Redfield said that the federal government will likely need to invest anywhere between an additional $3 trillion to $6 trillion into preparations to help combat a potential second wave of the virus, including an increase in flu vaccinations among the public, an investment in state and local health departments, along with overhauls of their public health data systems.

“It’s a small price to pay finally, once and for all, to stop talking about building the public health infrastructure this nation needs and, more importantly, deserves,” Redfield said.

From The Epoch Times