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Florida needs at least 3,232 contact tracers during coronavirus pandemic, experts estimate

Contact tracer Kandice Childress, right, works at Harris County Public Health contact tracing facility, Thursday, June 25, 2020, in Houston. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that the state is facing a "massive outbreak" in the coronavirus pandemic and that some new local restrictions may be needed to protect hospital space for new patients. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Contact tracer Kandice Childress, right, works at Harris County Public Health contact tracing facility, Thursday, June 25, 2020, in Houston. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that the state is facing a "massive outbreak" in the coronavirus pandemic and that some new local restrictions may be needed to protect hospital space for new patients. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

MIAMI – Florida needs at least 3,232 contact tracers, the detectives who investigate COVID-19 infections during the coronavirus pandemic. Miami-Dade County needs at least 415. Broward needs at least 293.

This is according to the Contact Tracing Workforce Estimator, a database that public health experts are updating to help local authorities to estimate the need each area has around the country.

Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease physician with more than 30 years of experience in clinical medicine and pathology, warned Tuesday that there is a need for “an army” in Miami-Dade’s hot zones.

“We definitely do not have enough contact tracers,” Marty said “We are hovering at about 200.”

George Washington University
George Washington University (George Washington University)

As the cases continue to grow and the intensive care unit beds are filling up fast, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez haven’t agreed on who is supposed to hire more contact tracers or if they believe there is even a need to.

DeSantis belittled the role as an essential part of an outbreak management strategy and Gimenez said it was a task for the Florida Department of Health, the state agency that runs the Miami-Dade DOH.

“The point of contact tracing is to find the clusters, find every positive case,” Marty said, adding the data gathered will help Gimenez to make better decisions in support of the economy.

Marty presented a hypothetical: “If contact tracing proves that barbershops are not to blame, we should not be closing down barbershops.”

Contact tracer Astrid Zeroual works at Harris County Public Health contact tracing facility Thursday, June 25, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Contact tracer Astrid Zeroual works at Harris County Public Health contact tracing facility Thursday, June 25, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said on Monday the country is facing “a serious situation that we have to address immediately.”

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said earlier this year that he didn’t “think we’re doing very well” on contact tracing around the country.

The database’s estimate on the need for contact tracing is done in partnership with the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the Association of States and Territorial Health Officials and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

George Washington University
George Washington University (George Washington University)

The Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services supports the database with the help of George Washington University.

The university’s Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity, better known as the Mullan Institute, aims to strengthen public health workforce policies.

Aside from the contact tracing estimator, the institute has also been updating the State Hospital Workforce Deficit Estimator, which also has the support of HRSA.

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