Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said aggressive contact tracing of people who tested positive for the coronavirus will be key in deciding when to reopen parts of the country amid the pandemic.
“It is going to be critical,” Dr. Redfield told NPR on Thursday. “We can’t afford to have multiple community outbreaks that can spiral up into sustained community transmission — so it is going to be very aggressive, what I call ‘block and tackle,’ ‘block and tackle.’”
Contact tracing is a labor-intensive process of finding out who positive coronavirus patients have been in proximity with and testing and quarantining the various connections if necessary.
“Obviously, if we’re going to try to get this nation back to work shortly after the end of this month, we’re far along in those planning processes as we speak,” he said.
Dr. Redfield acknowledged that contact tracing using cell phone data could be an option.
“People are looking at all the different modern technology that could be brought to bear to make contact tracing more efficient and effective,” he said. “Are there more tech-savvy ways to be more comprehensive in contact tracing? Currently these things are under aggressive evaluation.”
Dr. Redfield also talked up expanding testing for the coronavirus, including rapid testing, so people can get diagnosed quickly.
“We are going to need a substantial expansion of public health fieldworkers,” he said.
President Trump on Thursday downplayed the idea that the U.S. needs to have a national testing system for the virus before starting to reopen parts of the country.
“We’re picking up,” the president said. “And what we’ll be doing in the very near future is going to certain areas of our country and do massive testing. It’s not necessary, but it would be a good thing to have.”