ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg will help create a “tracing army” that will help find people infected with the coronavirus and get them into isolation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.
New York will coordinate the massive effort with neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut, accounting for the large number of people who commute into New York City for work. Wide-scale testing, tracing and isolation are considered crucial to taming the outbreak in the hard-hit region.
“It all has to be coordinated. There is no tracing that can work with one jurisdiction,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing.
The city of more than 8 million people is an epicenter of the pandemic and tracing infected people in the wider metropolitan area will be a gargantuan task. More than 257,000 people statewide have already tested positive for COVID-19 — a figure that likely undercounts infected residents by a substantial amount.
Now Cuomo aims to double the amount of daily tests in the state from 20,000 to 40,000.
The governor said that “we will literally need thousands” of people to trace the contacts of infected people.
The state currently has just 225 tracers with almost 500 more in New York City and its suburbs, and their efforts to contain the virus by finding people who had contact with the sick fell apart quickly as huge numbers of people in the region fell ill.
Cuomo said they will start to build a greater force of disease detectives by drawing from 35,000 medical field students at state and city universities, as well as from the state health department and other agencies. The Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University will create an online curriculum and training program.
Bloomberg and Bloomberg Philanthropies will provide support to help build and run the program. The philanthropic group also will contribute $10.5 million. Bloomberg, in a prepared statement said the ramped up testing and tracing “will help us drive the virus into a corner.”
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday he has spoken “broadly” with Cuomo about the coordination plan but nothing has been finalized yet.
New York City can still hire tracers independently, but there will be regional coordination. The state and its localities have as much as $1.3 billion from the federal government available to pay for tracing, Cuomo said.
Speaking shortly before Cuomo outlined his tracing plan, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined what he called a test-and-trace plan that he said would be run by the city. The mayor said once widespread testing for the virus is available the city will need as many as 5,000 to 10,000 contact tracers including city workers and employees of nonprofit groups that work with the city.