Does the US have enough contact tracers?

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As states continue to reopen their economies, they'll be relying on contact tracing to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

But how many contact tracers will state and local health departments need to keep track of coronavirus-positive constituents and their contacts?

WHAT IS CONTACT TRACING?

Experts recommend 30 contact tracing agents per 100,000 constituents. That number adds up fast. The U.S. will need between 100,000 and 300,000 contact tracers, according to estimates, Bojana Berić-Stojšić, director of the Master of Public Health Program at Fairleigh Dickinson University, told FOX Business.

"The current state of our national public health system is not nearly as capable as it needs to be in an emergency," Berić-Stojšić said. "Critical components of this effort must include increased testing and contact tracing which will require funding levels states can’t currently afford."

The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security called for approximately $3.6 billion in emergency funding for contact tracing by state and territorial health departments in April.

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Staffing contact tracing call centers will present a challenge too, CEO Tom Goodmanson of contact center company Calabrio told FOX Business. Calabrio and Amazon are working together with state and local health departments to spin up contact tracing operations.

"When we think about who’s going to staff these, it is opportunity with the wreckage we have in employment markets," Goodmanson said. "It's a lot of people to hire. You've got to get really creative. ... It's got to be 24/7."

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Coronavirus contact tracers will be needed for at least a couple of years, Goodmanson said.

"There's a real belief out there that had this been in place in January as a regular operation, we may have been able to squash it faster," he said.

Private companies will want to have their own contact tracing methods to reassure employees returning to work. That's what consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers is banking on as it markets its coronavirus contact tracing app that keeps track of which employees have been in proximity to one another.

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"Every minute you waste could be someone else walking around your workplace, getting other employees sick," Rob Mesirow, leader of the PwC Connected Solutions/Internet of Things practice, told FOX Business.

Large businesses that effectively contact trace will have a "halo effect" in their communities too, Mesirow said.

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