Mike Bloomberg stepping in to help create ‘army’ of contact tracers for NY, NJ and CT

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave up on his ill-advised presidential campaign, but now he’s back on the public stage.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Wednesday that Bloomberg is stepping in to help create an “army” of contact tracers to help determine how many people have been exposed to the new coronavirus, the Washington Examiner reported.

Test, trace, isolate

In order to safely reopen New York’s economy, Cuomo said that testing, tracing, and isolating infected people is key. “You have to start with a large number of tests. We set at a goal yesterday to double the number of state tests. To go from 20,000 on an average to 40,000 — that is just about the maximum capacity for all of the laboratory machines in the state,” Cuomo explained during his daily briefing on Wednesday.

“Every positive, you have to go back and trace and the tracing is a very big, big deal,” the governor said. “Once you trace and you find more positives, then you isolate the positives. They’re under quarantine. They can’t go out. They can’t infect anybody else.”

Bloomberg to create, fund contact tracing program

The “tracing” part is very labor-intensive and this is where Bloomberg comes in. “It’s a very big undertaking, and we thank him very much for taking it on,” Cuomo said.

The governor explained that New York state currently only has about 225 dedicated “tracers,” who are health officials or researchers that investigate individual COVID-19 cases and track down everyone who those individuals came into contact with and may have exposed to the virus.

Bloomberg’s new program plans to recruit upwards of 35,000 medical students from the City University of New York and the State University of New York to assist in the contact tracing effort.

“Michael Bloomberg will design the program, design the training. He’s going to make a financial contribution,” Cuomo explained. “It’s a superambitious undertaking. I don’t know what the financial contribution will be.”

Watch Cuomo’s announcement below:

Program could cost “upwards of $10 million”

While Gov. Cuomo may not know at this time how much the proposed contact tracing “army” will cost, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, estimated it could be in the realm of “upwards of $10 million.” Forbes reported on Wednesday that Bloomberg Philanthropies has promised $10.5 million to the effort.

Once created, the ambitious program would require “thousands” of people to participate in the effort, which is planned to cover the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

The program would be operated at the county level, and each county would be expected to independently hire contact tracers and cooperate in sharing information with other counties and states.

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