New York City has announced it will close its main contact-tracing program to the coronavirus within the next month. This is another sign that officials in the United States are changing how they deal with the threat of the coronavirus.
“Trace will be coming to an end in late April — giving us eight final weeks to complete your current work and get New Yorkers ready for the next phase as we learn to live with Covid,” Dr. Ted Long, the executive director of the city’s Test and Trace program, wrote in an email, shared with The New York Times, that was sent Monday night to the city’s remaining contact tracers.
People working as contact tracers also received a second email notifying them that their contracts would be ending in late April, and inviting them to apply for other positions in the city’s public hospital system.
On Tuesday, two of the city’s contact tracers, who requested anonymity to discuss a policy that had not yet been publicized, said that they had been expecting the end of the program for months. One of them said that he was surprised that the program had survived as long as it did.
New York State was overtaken by the Omicron variant in January. State officials announced that local health department did not have to trace every case. But the city continued its program. Then on Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidance, and no longer recommends “universal case investigation and contact tracing for Covid-19.”
Dr. Long mentioned that Dr. Long was referring to the federal recommendation as a key reason why the city was ending its program.
“Over 96 percent of adults in N.Y.C. have had at least one vaccine dose,” he wrote to the tracers. “We have very effective treatments, including a new oral medication that can be delivered the same day at home. Having these strong protections in place defines a new phase in the pandemic where we can learn to live with Covid.”
According to the city, the program employed approximately 2,000 contact tracers as of January 25, 2020. Their job was to connect New Yorkers to resources that can help them isolate, such as free hotel stays or community organizations that could deliver food. The city stated that the program delivered more than 2,000,000 meals and provided 33,000 hotel stays during the pandemic.
Many Americans with compromised immune systems feel left behind after the lifting of restrictions and precautions throughout the country. The C.D.C. continues to recommend contact trace for the coronavirus within high-risk settings, such as nursing homes or homeless shelters. A city spokesperson stated Tuesday that the city would continue to trace the coronavirus in those settings but that this responsibility would revert back to the health department. The main coronavirus tracing program has been run until now by the city’s public hospital corporation, a decision that aroused controversy.
People who test positive for HIV will receive a text message containing information about resources, including an anti-viral pill delivery program, after the main tracing program ends in April. They can also call the city hotline at 212-COVID19. The city’s large-scale virus testing program, which continues to operate about 150 testing sites, was not directly affected by Monday’s announcement.
“The city supports the C.D.C.’s recommendations to scale down contact tracing going forward,” Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city health commissioner, said in a statement. “As we enter a new phase of the pandemic, we must adapt our public health interventions, while still providing resources to New Yorkers.”
New York City will no longer require mask-wearing in public school classrooms. It will allow patrons to enter indoor public places without the need to show proof of vaccination. This is subject to low reports of new cases. There are a variety of opinions among disease experts about when these moves should be made. Some say too soon, while others argue that it is better to wait.
Source: NY Times