Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield said Wednesday that he supports reopening the country and that he believes states are “ready” to return to more normal operations, albeit with some key changes, including social distancing and contact tracing.
Speaking to The Hill, Redfield said that states are making significant strides in bringing down the number of coronavirus cases, and the drop, from March and April when cases peaked, is noticeable — and something to celebrate.
“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.
He added that “the CDC is working with state public health agencies to contain outbreaks in nursing homes, among homeless populations, in meatpacking facilities and in other areas. He signaled states will have sufficient testing and contact tracing to follow the White House’s guidelines for reopening.”
The CDC is heavily focused on “contact tracing,” which involves using data, available through cell phone applications (most of which is provided voluntarily to apps like Facebook), and voluntary connections with individual Americans, to track individuals who test positive for the virus and track their movements, warning those who might have come into contact with coronavirus carriers that they could be in danger of contracting the virus.
The CDC has its own team of contact tracers, but Redfield says the agency is working with state health departments to help them train their own teams, as well.
“Ultimately, that number [of contact tracers] is going to be decided by the efforts that we have with the local health departments,” Redfield told The Hill. “But that’s ongoing now, and it needs to be in place, operationally ready by October of this year.”
Redfield stressed that even as coronavirus infections wane, health care officials should be on the offensive, prepared for a possible second wave either or or in addition to an upcoming flu season. He also implored state health departments to improve their guidelines for handling further coronavirus outbreaks, including isolated outbreaks in nursing homes and other residential care facilities.
The CDC was only briefly in the lead of the United States’ coronavirus pandemic response; the issue quickly gave way to a full-government response that spanned agencies and involved its own team of experts. Now that the White House is more focused on the economic implications of the virus, much of the day-to-day pandemic management is falling back on the CDC’s shoulders.
On Thursday, the CDC released several documents, including updated guidelines for schools, child care centers, restaurants, bars, and subways on how to return to “normal” after coronavirus-related lockdowns are lifted. Last week, the agency released a guide on how businesses could disinfect public spaces efficiently and effectively.
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