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NYC Test & Trace Corps Celebrates Historic Achievements of Its COVID-19 Contact Tracing Program, Reaching 1.7 Million Cases and Identifying 1.8 Million Contacts

Contact tracers engaged with over 30% of all New Yorkers to provide them critical resources to safely isolate or quarantine, get tested and receive treatment and vaccinations

May 05, 2022

New York, NY

The NYC Test & Trace Corps announced today that its Trace program reached a total of 1.7 million New Yorkers with COVID-19 and notified 1.8 million of their close contacts between the program’s launch in June 2020 and conclusion at the end of April, ultimately engaging with more than 30% of the city’s population. The regular communication between the City’s contact tracers and New Yorkers who were infected with or exposed to COVID-19 ensured that they could effectively isolate and quarantine to stop the spread of the virus. Contact tracers also ensured New Yorkers with COVID-19 and those who were exposed were referred to the information and resources needed to safely separate and recover, including hotel stays, food deliveries, cash assistance, treatment, testing and vaccinations.
“The work of contact tracers over the course of the pandemic has been extraordinary,” said New York City Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. “They are people who stepped up to the challenge when their city needed them. They have been the warm voice on the other end of phone calls to reach people who have been touched by the virus. I want to thank Dr. Long for his leadership and every person who has been part of this effort. I am grateful for your service to our city.”
“Our contact tracers wore many hats during the pandemic. They served as public health workers, moving quickly to help stop the spread of COVID-19. They became social workers, connecting New Yorkers with vital services like grocery delivery,” said NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz, MD. “Throughout it all, our contact tracers displayed an enormous amount of strength, professionalism and empathy during one of the scariest moments in our city’s history. I want to congratulate the NYC Test & Trace Corps for this incredible milestone and also thank them for their dedication and historic service.”
“From their first day to their last, our contact tracers have courageously looked out for their fellow New Yorkers with COVID-19 or who were exposed to the virus, making sure they have the vital information and resources to safely separate, recover and prevent further infection in their homes and communities,” said Senior Vice President of Ambulatory Care and Population Health at New York City Health + Hospitals and NYC Test & Trace Corps Executive Director Dr. Ted Long. “Our contact tracers are heroes. Their unshakeable determination to provide support made our city safer and gave us connection and empathy in times of separation and distress. New York City owes its contact tracers an enormous debt of gratitude — they have saved lives, prevented thousands of infections and powered a community-driven epidemiological effort that will instruct and better prepare our city for any future public health emergencies.”
“The City’s Test & Trace program has prevented unnecessary suffering for countless New Yorkers by connecting our neighbors to the crucial services they needed, like isolation support and treatments,” said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “My heartfelt thanks and congratulations go out to the hundreds of contact tracers whose work helped us to get to where we are now. They are all true public health heroes.”
From the Trace program’s launch in June 2020 to its conclusion in April 2022, its contact tracers reached 1.7 million New Yorkers with COVID-19 and identified 1.8 million of their close contacts, over 76% of whom were notified by Trace of their exposure. Contact tracers completed intake for 1.2 million cases and 800,000 contacts, or approximately 2 million New Yorkers, reaching the vast majority of them in a median time of less than one day.
During the first 18 months of the program, prior to the December 2021 omicron surge, contact tracers reached nearly 90% of all cases received. In total, Trace’s massive outreach effort — the largest contact tracing program of any municipality in the country — reached over 30% of all New Yorkers through phone calls, texts or in-person visits.
“Contact tracing is a proven-effective intervention to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases,” said Dr. Peter Kilmarx, Deputy Director of the John E. Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health. “I want to congratulate and thank the NYC Test & Trace Corps for their outstanding accomplishments in reaching so many people with and at risk for infection and for their extraordinary impact in reducing disease transmission and mitigating the health and social burdens of infection. We look forward to a full evaluation of the Trace program and the lessons learned that may be applied more broadly in other jurisdictions and to other current and future health threats.”
“Throughout the darkest days of this pandemic, contact tracers have been at the frontlines, relentlessly reaching out to the most vulnerable New Yorkers, assuaging their fears and anxieties, bringing them the right information and supporting them in every way possible,” said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, Director of ICAP at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “We are forever in their debt for their dedication and courage.”
“New York City’s Test & Trace contract tracing program generated data to inform many of the city’s policies, from where to target restrictions to how to make in-person schooling safer,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital, Senior Fellow & Editor-at-Large for Public Health at KFF’s Kaiser Health News, member of the Biden-Harris Transition COVID Advisory Board and host of the “American Diagnosis” and “Epidemic” podcasts. “In other parts of the country, many couldn’t afford to isolate or quarantine outside the home, but in New York City, the contact tracing program provided hotel rooms, food, and other services to help people protect their families from COVID spread. The program also helped reach the most vulnerable and high-risk for COVID by linking exposed persons to vaccination appointments and administering vaccinations in the home.”
“The Test & Trace Corps has been a critical resource to help the City and its residents during the pandemic,” said Dr. Jay Varma, Director of the Cornell Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response and former Senior Advisor for Public Health for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Residents knew their City was watching out for them by providing services to safely isolate and quarantine either at home or in a hotel, and the City received high quality data about the epidemic to guide its policies. The City’s contact tracers were drawn from every community across the City and served as a shining example of what it means to be a New Yorker: passionate, hard-working, talented, and dedicated to service.”
Since the program began, the efforts of its information gatherers — contact tracers whose job was to locate cases and contacts who had incomplete or incorrect contact information or who were unable to be reached after three initial attempts — enabled Trace to speak with 300,000 cases and 100,000 contacts who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to be reached.
When information gatherers were able to find an address but no phone number, Trace’s community engagement specialists — a group of contact tracers who spoke a total of 42 languages and were specifically trained for in-person contact tracing work — visited these hardest-to-reach New Yorkers at home. In total, community engagement specialists engaged 250,000 cases and 80,000 contacts, over half of whom lived in the neighborhoods the City’s Taskforce on Racial Inclusion & Equity (TRIE) identified as having been hardest hit by the pandemic.
The daily check-in tracers conducted with New Yorkers who had contracted or were exposed to COVID-19 helped ensure that, prior to the omicron surge, 97% and 94% of these groups, respectively, reported not leaving their homes over the course of the recommended isolation or quarantine period.
During the two-month omicron surge, Trace received over 100,000 more cases than in the previous 18 months of the program combined. To meet this unprecedented volume, in addition to phone calls, Trace began texting cases and contacts in December 2021. Since then, Tracers have sent nearly 900,000 texts — including over 545,000 to cases and over 353,000 to contacts — more than 111,000 of which provided information about antiviral and monoclonal antibody treatment options.
Through every phase of the pandemic, contact tracers have provided a gateway for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to be connected with an array of essential services as they recovered from COVID-19 and dealt with the hardships of quarantine and isolation.
To stop the spread of infection among households, the Test & Trace isolation hotel program provided more than 32,000 New Yorkers with hotel rooms, enabling those living in close quarters with family members or roommates to have a safe, comfortable place to isolate and recover.
To support New Yorkers in quarantine or isolation at home, Test & Trace’s Take Care program helped deliver approximately 2.3 million meals and nearly 600,000 care packages containing PPE, thermometers, masks and other necessities.
Trace’s nearly two-year engagement with New Yorkers has helped the NYC Test & Trace Corps tailor and expand its Take Care program’s offerings to best serve the unique needs of those navigating quarantine or recovering from COVID-19 including its AfterCare program supporting New Yorkers with Long COVID.
At the height of the Trace program, it was powered by 4,000 contact tracers who spoke or utilized interpretation services for more than 55 languages. In order to build trust with New Yorkers, Trace ensured that its contact tracers reflected the communities they served, with the majority hailing from the city neighborhoods hardest hit by the pandemic.
If you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms consistent with the virus, please call 212-COVID19 or visit nyc.gov/covidtest to find a testing location convenient for you. In-home testing is available to all immunocompromised New Yorkers and those ages 65 and older. To schedule an in-home appointment, call (929) 298-9400 between 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. (seven days a week).
If you have tested positive for COVID-19, including using an at-home test, please call the Test & Trace COVID-19 hotline at 212-COVID19 and press 9 to be immediately connected to a doctor who will assess your eligibility for monoclonal antibody treatments or oral antiviral medications like Paxlovid that can be delivered to your home.
In addition, whether you have tested positive for, been exposed to or are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19,  you can use the NYC Test & Trace Corps’s COVID-19 Quarantine and Isolation Guidance Tool to receive personalized guidance. The tool’s individualized results offer quick connections to critical resources, including free meal and care package delivery, testing and treatment.