Blog May 11, 2020

Federal Funding for State and Local Contact Tracing Efforts Is an Urgent Priority — and a Bargain

Joshua Salomon makes the case for a $20 billion relief bill to fund state and local contact-tracing efforts in this Health Affairs blog.
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Rallying cries around COVID-19 have shifted from “flatten the curve” to “reopen America.” After weeks of restrictions on movement, commerce, and social connections across most areas of the country, the tantalizing possibility of relaxing current measures in time for summer baseball and beach parties eroded the resolve of many communities in lockdown. At least 30 states have already moved to reopen some businesses or loosen stay-at-home orders against the warnings of health experts. In the context of a growing array of roadmaps intended to guide policy makers toward the next phase of the response, there is another rallying cry that needs to be heard most loudly right now: “Fund public health.”

In this Health Affairs blog, Stanford Health Policy's Josh Salomon and Arthur L. Reingold of UC Berkeley's School of Public Health, make the case that in the next COVID-19 stimulus package, a $20 billion investment in the public health workforce will be needed to implement contact tracing. Assuming that part of the $11 billion just approved to support testing in states could be used for contact tracing, that combined investment would still amount to just 1 percent of the nearly $3 trillion in total coronavirus relief funding to date. The new funds should be directed entirely to state and local health departments so that they can mobilize, train, and equip enough people to perform case-based interventions anchored on testing, contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine once community-level public health orders have achieved their goals.

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