Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is developing three smartphone apps to help New York state trace every person who comes into contact with someone infected with Covid-19 to help control the spread of the virus.
Contact tracing requires scores of people to interview coronavirus patients and track down all of their contacts over the past 14 days so those people can be notified, tested and quarantined.
The team, led by Bloomberg, is partnering with the health-care nonprofit Vital Strategies to develop the three new smartphone apps. The first app will help the contact tracers find information and data quickly, the second will allow the public to send data directly to local health departments and the third will provide guidance to people in quarantine and allow them to report any symptoms, Bloomberg said.
"When social distancing is relaxed, contact tracing is our best hope for isolating the virus when it appears and keeping it isolated," Bloomberg said during Gov. Andrew Cuomo's press conference.
He added that Vital Strategies is working with the state to develop a "comprehensive playbook" that outlines for contact tracers how to do the job effectively.
The team has hired a staffing company to build a "small army of New Yorkers" to conduct the contact tracing and has teamed up with the City University of New York and the State University of New York to identify applicants, Bloomberg said.
Johns Hopkins University has developed a remote training class for tracers, Bloomberg said, adding that it will cover the basics of epidemics, contact tracing and privacy. He said applicants must pass a test at the end of the class to be hired.
Cuomo said on Tuesday that the state would need to hire thousands of contact tracers to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and allow officials to ease strict social distancing guidelines. He said the state would need at least 30 contact tracers per 100,000 people.
The state also needs to broaden access to testing, which will be prioritized for people who are symptomatic, people who came into contact with a symptomatic person and frequent tests of frontline, essential workers, he said. Officials are working toward constructing enough testing sites across the state.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is currently working to hire 1,000 contact tracers with health-care backgrounds.
"Contact tracing, the test and trace approach, is going to change everything," de Blasio said at the governor's press conference Thursday. "I think we are going to be able to show this country a model that's going to be extraordinarily effective in beating back this disease."