Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city is conducting over 20,000 tests per day, with the capacity to reach 50,000 tests per day by early July. The city is prepared to monitor more than 250,000 New Yorkers and their contacts this summer.
“With Test and Trace, we’re building out a contact tracing system that is unprecedented in its scope and size,” de Blasio said . “We’re seeing tremendous progress two weeks in, but we need all New Yorkers on board.”
Of the 5,347 new positive cases of coronavirus since the Test and Trace Corps launched, 4,529 of them, or 85 percent, have supplied phone numbers. The Corps reached 4,241 of those people, with 1,866 people sharing their recent contacts.
To track down cases and contacts of people who did not share a phone number, the Corps will conduct database research and reach out to doctors’ offices.
City officials will also work with community-based organizations to expand their reach to contacts who may be unresponsive to phone calls. The city will invest $4 billion in a “Hit Accept” campaign.
“My plea is simple,” de Blasio said. “If you see a call from a 212 number, please pick up. It’s your civic duty to help keep your neighbors safe.”
Last Monday, NYC Test and Trace Corps Chief Equity Officer Annabel Palma spoke about the newly formed organization to the Queens Borough Board. Palma said if anyone tests positive for COVID-19, the city will offer them isolation from their families through rented hotel rooms.
“This is still a very live and active virus,” Palma said. “We want to make sure those communities that have been hit the hardest get the resources they deserve to safely get back to a healthy New York.”
Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee said the city will rely on community boards and other civic groups to get the message out, dispel myths and encourage testing and protection.
“Testing and contact tracing are critical cornerstones of our ability to launch this road to recovery and rebuild,” Lee said. “It hinges entirely on trust.
“Contact tracing is extraordinarily time sensitive,” she added. “From the moment we know someone tests positive, it’s a race against time to inform anybody who may have been exposed to that and encourage them to isolate and prevent community spread.”
Several community board chairs raised concerns about lack of testing in their communities, where the data will go, and how other agencies will use the information.
Mike Budabin, chair of Community Board 11, asked if there was any enforcement mechanism for those who do not want to participate in the tracing process.
“I’m sensitive to the fact that some may be nervous about raising the fact that they’re positive because the city will ask them to relocate,” he said.
Palma responded that tracing is “not at all meant to be punitive.” Those who test positive can choose to isolate at home, if they are able to. If not, the city can offer a rented hotel room to isolate from others.
When asked how people who have participated in the daily protests for the last several weeks should proceed, Palma said the Test and Trace Corps would start by asking participants who their closest contacts were during the protests.
“We have strong messaging to make sure people participating in protests come in and get tested,” she said.