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Cuomo, Former Mayor Bloomberg Detail Plans For Contact Tracing Program, Say It Will Be Shared Worldwide

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Gov. Andrew Cuomo says as testing increases, the next step in contact tracing to help stop the coronavirus pandemic.

But with people testing positive in the thousands, tracing is going to require a lot of work.

Cuomo again addressed the question of reopening, saying it was no time for politics or political decisions.

"If we do this right, it is a science - reopening," he said. "It is based on numbers and data."


He said the state will look at diagnostic tests and keep track of hospital capacity. The goal is to not let hospitals get above 70% capacity and have a 30-day supply of necessary equipment stockpiled.

Cuomo has stressed that data determines reopening. So now, a so-called army put together by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Johns Hopkins is forming.

Once a person tests positive, then comes the mission to locate everyone they've come in contact with.

"You then test those people. You then isolate those people, so you don't increase the rate of infection," Cuomo said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Cuomo said they will first look to Department of Health employees, government employees currently at home not working, to become contact tracers. After that, the hiring of thousands will begin. There will be 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 individuals.

Enter Bloomberg Philanthropies and Johns Hopkins University.

Bloomberg discussed his plan to conduct the contact tracing component.

"When social distancing is relaxed, contact tracing is our best hope for isolating the virus when it appears and keeping it isolated," he said.

The program will help identify people who might not be aware they have the virus, Bloomberg said.

"To get the contact tracing program up and running, a lot has to happen first," he said. "Hiring, training, deploying and managing a small army of New Yorkers, as the governor said, is really the great challenge."

"To help the state recruit contact tracers, we've brought in a staffing organization, and we're also teamed up with CUNY and SUNY, both of which will help identify potential job applicants," Bloomberg said.

Johns Hopkins has developed a training class, which can be taken remotely.

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"It will cover all the basic information of epidemics, contact tracing and privacy. There's also a test at the end of the training which you have to pass in order to be hired," Bloomberg said.

The nonprofit Vital Strategies is also working on three new smartphone apps to help the contact tracers find data quickly, help the public share information with health departments and help people in quarantine access services and report any symptoms.

Smartphone apps are also being developed to help tracers, and the state will be working with neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut.

"That way, the work we do here in New York can really help fight the virus globally," he said. "We'll also bring in a group of outside experts to conduct an evaluation of the program, so that other states and countries can see what worked well and identify areas they can improve on."

Earlier this week, New York City announced it's looking to hire 1,000 experienced health workers for the program.

Cuomo and Bloomberg say they're ultimately creating a playbook which they expect to share globally. The program will continue through next flu season.

The number of hospitalizations continued to decline, as did the number of new COVID-19 cases, Cuomo said. There were 306 new deaths.

"Still terrible," said the governor.

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