Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg Wednesday announced he would pony up $10 million to launch a COVID-19 contact-tracing army of 35,000 medical students to help contain the virus. The effort would be designed and executed in partnership with Johns Hopkins University and would include a campaign that would cover New York state, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Details of the program are still being worked out. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University will build an online curriculum and training program for contact tracers, who would include state health employees and SUNY and CUNY medical students.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy at his daily press briefing yesterday made a vague mention of an agreement among the three states but did not explain how New Jersey would participate.
“This contract-tracing program is in its very early stages. I do not have additional information at this time other than what is the press release from Gov. Cuomo,” a spokeswoman from Murphy’s office said.
Contact tracing is a critical element in the strategy to reopen the economy. In addition to stepped up testing, the goal is to quickly investigate each person who tests positive to determine who else may be infected. Public health experts say rapidly isolating these people will be the key to returning to normal life. Several countries, such as Germany, Singapore and South Korea, have used contact tracing effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There has never been a contact-tracing program implemented at this scale either in New York or anywhere in the United States, according to Cuomo. Bloomberg Philanthropies will also work with New York state to establish an expert panel to review the work of the program and create a best-in-class model that other states can use for contact tracing.
“This partnership with Mike Bloomberg to create an unprecedented, nation-leading contact-tracing program will … serve as a model for the rest of the nation,” Cuomo said.
“I’m honored to partner with Gov. Cuomo and New York state to help do that,” Bloomberg said. “Coupled with far more testing, it will help us drive the virus into a corner — saving lives and allowing more people to begin getting back to work.”