Testing, tracing strategy key to preventing COVID-19 flare-ups, lawmakers say

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Lawmakers say in order to prevent another major COVID-19 outbreak the country needs a nationwide testing and tracing strategy.

Congressman Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) says by the fall states must do widespread COVID-19 testing and identify everyone who comes in contact with positive cases. 

“The only way we have to defeat this virus is to keep people who are positive, who are contagious away from other people,” Rep. Ruiz said. 

But he said states can’t do it alone. 

“We need the administration to sit down with their public health experts, to help define what a methodology should look like,” he said. 

Ruiz said testing and tracing strategies aren’t one size fits all and may differ state by state. 

But no matter the strategy, thousands of trained people will be needed to put it into action.

Congressman Ami Bera (D-Calif.) said California is already training thousands of contract tracers. 

“Now we need that public health workforce. The men and women who are going to go out there and do the contact tracing,” Rep. Bera said. 

He said they’ll work with county health officials to enforce isolated quarantines. 

“So we don’t have to shut down the entire country, but we can shut down clusters,” he said. 

“In the testing blueprint, we talk about proactive surveillance,” White House Task Force member Dr. Deborah Birx said. 

Dr. Birx said in settings where outbreaks are common, everyone should be tested. 

“Proactively go and test everyone in meatpacking plants. To proactively go and test 100% of the residents and workers in every single long term care facility,” she said. 

Dr. Birx said catching asymptomatic cases early is the best way to prevent outbreaks.

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