The COVID-19 pandemic has presented the United States. (and the world) with the most severe public health tragedy and challenge in over a century. While public health agencies in the U.S. are well-practiced and have systems in place for detecting and responding to infectious disease outbreaks, novel coronavirus came with unique challenges, requiring public health agencies to rapidly adapt and respond at unprecedented scale.
Effective public health epidemic response measures are implemented according to the phase of an epidemic, with contact tracing as essential measure during the containment and suppression phases. In the U.S., contact tracing is primarily being used as a suppression strategy, after wide implementation of physical distancing measures.
The contact tracing systems and practices being put into place now must be evaluated, refined to incorporate lessons learned, and institutionalized so that they can be rapidly activated during subsequent outbreaks. When the next epidemic comes, contact tracing during the early containment phase can stop the spread of disease before it becomes a large outbreak—and prevent this from ever happening again.
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