New York, Dec 29 (IANS) New York City's coronavirus contact-tracing team will be put to the test amid the ongoing winter season as a recent resurgence in fresh coronavirus cases is expected to continue through the holiday season, a media report said.
While the introduction of Covid-19 vaccines has given New Yorkers hope that the worst part of the pandemic will be over in 2021, the city still must navigate through a difficult winter, Xinhua news agency quoted The Wall Street Journal report published on Monday as saying.
The city's seven-day average of new and probable Covid-19 cases has exceeded 3,000 for most of December, up from about 250 new cases daily at the start of September.
Ted Long, executive director of the city's Covid-19 Test and Trace Corps, told the newspaper that his team has been preparing for this moment. The corps has added 1,000 members since summer, and now has a total 4,000 staffers.
"We are staffed, and we are ready to handle all cases through the surge," Long said.
Contact tracing remains one of the most important tools for public-health officials to curb the spread of the virus.
The city's team of contact tracers get in touch with people who have tested positive and others who may have been exposed to notify them that they should self-quarantine to avoid getting others sick.
They also offer to help people access medical care and put them up in a hotel free of charge if they can't isolate at home.
The city's contact-tracing program got off to a rocky start but has improved, according to The Wall Street Journal report.
During the program's first few weeks in June, only half of the people reached by contact tracers completed the intake process, which involves answering a series of questions, according to the Test and Trace team.
Now three out of four people are completing intake.
Only 35 per cent of people reached by contact tracers gave the names and information of people they may have exposed to during the program's first two weeks in June, according to the team.
Now, 64 per cent of the people that completed the intake process are sharing contact information and about 18 per cent reported they didn't have any contacts to share because they haven't had any recent meaningful in-person interactions, Long was quoted as saying in The Wall Street Journal report.
His team focused on hiring contact tracers who lived in the neighbourhoods hit the hardest by the pandemic to build trust in those communities to get more people to cooperate with contact tracing.
They are also deploying people for in-person contact tracing when someone can't be reached by phone.
At city-run testing facilities, there are contact tracers on hand to begin the process if someone takes a rapid test and tests positive.
New York City has so far reported 24,973 coronavirus deaths and 407,264 confirmed cases.