Fauci Says This Vital Aspect of Containing Coronavirus Is "Not Going Well"

This long-standing method of curbing the spread of diseases has been proven to work, so why isn't it?

In addition to discussing a new approach to testing that would achieve faster results with fewer resources, Anthony Fauci, MD, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), expressed his disappointment with efforts behind another essential component of containing coronavirus: contact tracing. "It's not going well," Fauci told CNBC on Friday. "I have to tell you, it's not going well."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "Contact tracing is used by health departments to prevent the spread of infectious disease. In general, contact tracing involves identifying people who have an infectious disease (cases) and their contacts (people who may have been exposed) and working with them to interrupt disease transmission." In the case of COVID-19, the CDC says contact tracing measures include "asking cases to isolate and contacts to quarantine at home voluntarily."

Two women with protective masks touching elbows outdoors in the city

The centuries-old public health technique is considered by most medical professionals to be one of the best ways to monitor and contain a disease, especially when widespread lockdowns are no longer viable options. The problem, however, is that its level of effectiveness relies heavily in the hands of human beings, who have to be trained—not to mention trusted—which, of course, costs money and requires all other kinds of crucial support.

"To just say you're going to go out and identify, contact trace and isolate, that doesn't mean anything until you do it," Fauci told CNBC. "Not checking the box that you did it, but actually do it. Get people on the ground. Not on the phone. When you identify somebody, have a place to put them to get them out of social interaction."

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In other words, states need to up their efforts when it comes to testing, tracing, and isolating. To make that happen, the CDC has allocated more than $10 billion to tracing programs at the state level. Still, Fauci says progress has been underwhelming, insisting things need to improve before yet another wave of the virus hits in the fall.

"When the fall comes, we better be ready that there will be surges in cases, and as I've said so many times now for months, we have a few months to prepare for that," he said. "So when that happens, we have to be able to do the proper and effective way of identification, isolation, and contact tracing." And for more on containing COVID-19, check out This Many Americans May Have Had Coronavirus and Didn't Know It, Says CDC.

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