When states reopen, do they have enough staff to follow up on contacts? : Hits

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Health investigator Mackenzie Bray of the Salt Lake City County Health Department in Salt Lake City, Utah, works to contact people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus so that they can be tested and quarantined . Thousands of health workers across the country are doing this work to prevent outbreaks from spreading.

Rick Bowmer / AP

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Rick Bowmer / AP

Health investigator Mackenzie Bray of the Salt Lake City County Health Department in Salt Lake City, Utah, works to contact people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus so that they can be tested and quarantined . Thousands of health workers across the country are doing this work to prevent outbreaks from spreading.

Rick Bowmer / AP

An NPR survey of state health services shows that the national coronavirus contact troop has tripled in the past six weeks, from 11,142 to 37,110 workers. Yet, given their current number of cases, only seven states and the District of Columbia are staffed to the level that public health researchers deem necessary to contain epidemics.

Contact tracers are public health workers who contact each new case of coronavirus positive, find their contacts, and connect both the sick person and those exposed to the services they need to be able to isolate themselves safely. It is essential to eradicate emerging epidemics.

To understand how this picture had changed since the first NPR contact tracing survey in late April, NPR again contacted all state health departments, as well as D.C. and the United States. In total, NPR journalists were able to collect data from the 50 states as well as from D.C., Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

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