Press Room

Scaling Up Public Health Contact Investigation Key to America’s Recovery: New Report Finds 100,000 Disease Investigators Needed Now

ARLINGTON, Va. (Apr. 10, 2020)—–Michael Fraser, chief executive officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), issued the following statement following the release of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security report, A National Plan to Enable Comprehensive COVID-19 Case Finding and Contact Tracing in the U.S.

"The comprehensive national plan released today by Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security and ASTHO frames the urgent need to expand contact investigation capacity at the local, state, territorial, and tribal levels. It contains important lessons from overseas responses that highlight just how vital teams of contact tracers and disease investigators will be to our recovery, and the critical role frontline public health workers have played to controlling COVID-19 in China, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand, and Iceland. The report includes the finding that 100,000 contact investigators may be necessary for full recovery, at the cost of $3.6 billion. That is a small price to pay given the economic devastation this virus has wrought nationally and around the globe.

As we prepare for the next phase of COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, the report provides guidance for federal, state, local, and territorial health agencies so they can begin scaling up the workforce and necessary capacity as the country potentially looks to ease stay at home orders and prohibitions on mass gatherings. We will only be able to recover when we have the capacity to quickly isolate new cases and track those that have been near infected individuals.

ASTHO urgently calls upon Congress and the Administration to further support the growth of our contact investigation workforce by providing the resources and flexibility states and territories need to rapidly expand and accelerate case finding and contact tracing capacities within the existing public health system. Now is the time for us to support what we know works in our system. Our nation’s health officials are planning for this rapid expansion and looking for federal support to quickly move forward.”

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ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely-associated states, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.