Is COVID contact tracing obsolete, with at-home testing, Omicron surges on the rise?

The Omicron version of COVID-19 continues to rise across the United States as new cases jump by 185 percent over the past two weeks and the daily caseload exceeds 760,000.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has warned that Omicron will “eventually find out about everyone” as the highly infectious form continues to spread among those who have received vaccinations against the coronavirus. Have done and not done.

Given the rapid spread of the variant and the rise of at-home testing as insurance companies now have to cover eight tests a month, some have begun to question the value of the Biden administration’s investment in contact tracing And is this exercise still useful.

While the Bakers Hospital Review writes that it is “not clear the exact amount of funds” that went to tracing and the US Treasury pointed out newsweek It’s not “something that the Treasury is tracking,” that number is somewhere in the hundreds of millions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) paid $631 million for tracing efforts in April of 2020, and some states spent millions developing apps.

Stopping the spread of COVID-19 has been a focus of the Biden administration’s public health efforts. Here, President Joe Biden removes his face mask as he arrives to speak at the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex on October 14, 2021 in Washington, DC
Photo by Drew Anger/Getty Images

Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, weighs in on how useful these investments are now, and how useful they may be in the future, amid the omicron boom.

“When you get a huge outbreak like we’re doing now … it has less relevance,” Benjamin said. newsweek, “(But) contact tracing still has a huge role to play in our response.”

While Omicron’s ability to spread rapidly makes the original contact tracing measures less useful, Benjamin said those investments are not in vain. Once the current version is down, he said the existing contact tracing infrastructure can once again be deployed to address geographically limited outbreaks to prevent large spreads.

Now that contact tracing technology and public health networks are in place, these tools can be used to prevent the spread of other diseases in the meantime, leaving measures still in use, Benjamin said. The current contagiousness of contact tracing with respect to COIVD-19 can be incredibly costly to respond to and once again overtakes the US when it comes to responding to future threats of the disease.

“One of the failures of our national policy and strategy has been this yo-yo funding where we invest money when something bad happens,” Benjamin said. “The money comes in, often a little later than we need it, and then the money goes, and the capacity is gone. Then something bad happens, and we could have reduced it, but we didn’t have the infrastructure to do that.” If you build an army like this, your army will never be successful.”

Benjamin points to the lack of existing contact tracing infrastructure as a reason US contact tracing efforts never reached the level of success experienced in places such as Western Europe. He said many communities did not receive funding until it was too late, which never allowed the programs to move forward.

Meanwhile, Benjamin said contact tracing in its current form should be tweaked to reflect the new realities of the virus.

Benjamin said people should now identify themselves if they are potentially infected. Once they find an answer to that suspicion through home testing, they say they should contact their doctor who can provide treatment, the state or local health department, and the people they may have come into contact with. Huh.

“The concept of contact tracing changes a bit from the health department being the focus of the contact tracing effort to the individuals assisted in it,” Benjamin said. newsweek, “So, contact tracing still plays a big role.”