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NYC Test & Trace Corps Engages Over One Million Close Contacts Through Contact Tracing Program

Contact tracers have engaged 72% of contacts in live conversation and connected them to vital services to safely quarantine, get tested and receive vaccinations

Sep 23, 2021

New York, NY

The NYC Test & Trace Corps announced today that its Trace program has engaged over one million close contacts of cases of COVID-19. The regular communication between the City’s contact tracers with people who’ve contracted or been exposed to COVID-19 has ensured New Yorkers effectively isolate and quarantine to stop the spread and are referred to the resources they need to safely isolate and recover, including hotel stays, food deliveries, cash assistance, testing and vaccinations.
“The one million contacts we’ve engaged are one million critical opportunities our contact tracers have acted upon to connect New Yorkers exposed to COVID-19 with the vital information and resources to safely quarantine, recover and prevent further infection in their homes and communities,” said NYC Test & Trace Corps Executive Director Dr. Ted Long. “Every contact we’ve reached has helped us better understand what we can do to help the next, expanding our Take Care program’s essential services and directing our testing and vaccine resources where they’re needed most. I want to salute our contact tracers, who have worked around the clock for months on end to reach out and support their neighbors. Without them, this unparalleled, community-driven epidemiological effort would never have been possible.”
Contact tracers’ efforts to identify and reach out to close contacts, or those exposed to COVID-19, begin immediately after someone tests positive. Time is of the essence, as the sooner people infected with COVID-19 provide contact information for family, friends and co-workers they’ve spent time in close proximity with, the sooner contact tracers can notify these contacts that they have been exposed. These conversations ensure that people who’ve been exposed to COVID-19 receive the resources they need to quickly quarantine and break chains of transmission.
Since the program’s launch, Test & Trace’s contact tracers have been able to reach 88% of the over 900,000 city residents who are cases of COVID-19. These New Yorkers, in turn, have identified one million others whom they may have exposed to the virus. Trace’s massive outreach effort has provided nearly a quarter of New York City residents with much-needed information and resources throughout the pandemic. The program has helped people with COVID-19 isolate so they could recover and keep their loved ones and communities safe, and enabled those exposed to safely and comfortably quarantine to prevent further infection.
“This incredible milestone further illustrates the powerful role that our City’s tracing program has played in helping to draw back the horrific impacts of this pandemic,” said NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz, MD. “We thank all of our partners — from our sister agencies, the experts who contributed to our model, the community-based organizations that support our outreach, our workforce, and more — that have made the success of our tracing program what it’s been.”
“The partnership between the NYC Test & Trace Corps and the Health Department has enabled us to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, connect New Yorkers to services, and save lives,” said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi. “I congratulate the contact tracers on this milestone and am grateful for the tireless work they have done in our COVID-19 response.”
“The New York City Test & Trace Corps has been and will remain a critical defense against COVID-19,” said Dr. Jay Varma, Senior Advisor for Public Health for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “With a workforce representing the cultural, linguistic, ethnic and racial diversity of the City and grounded in partnerships with community-based organizations, Test & Trace has sought to provide services to over one million individuals at high risk to support them during quarantine, and generated critical essential data to help the City, community groups and residents take important measures to protect the health of communities.”
“The NYC Test & Trace Corps’ contact tracing effort has been among the most impressive in the nation,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, Infectious Disease Specialist and Epidemiologist at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital, member of the Biden-Harris Transition COVID Advisory Board and host of the “Epidemic” podcast. “Contact tracing isn’t just about identifying cases. It’s about learning where and how the virus is spreading and what else we can do to combat it. It’s about plugging high-risk people in with services to help them stay safe and healthy throughout the pandemic.”
The daily correspondence tracers maintained with New Yorkers who contracted or were exposed to COVID-19 ensured that 97% and 94% of these groups, respectively, did not leave their homes over the course of the recommended isolation or quarantine period—a crucial step to stop the spread, given that 24% of those exposed developed symptoms of COVID-19. Among the over 35,000 people from 15,000 households who received a test via the Test & Trace at-home testing program, over 20% tested positive for COVID-19, a figure approximately ten times higher than the current citywide positivity rate.
Over the course of the Trace program, contact tracers have engaged 72% of close contacts in live conversation. These conversations ensured not only that New Yorkers who were exposed to COVID-19 separated safely, but allowed tracers to monitor people’s evolving conditions, including if they developed symptoms consistent with COVID-19, and refer them to additional services as necessary.
In total, contact tracers have placed nearly 2.5 million calls and sent over 2 million texts to monitor the condition of people who had or were exposed to COVID-19.
Talking with these New Yorkers has also helped the NYC Test & Trace Corps tailor and expand its Take Care program’s offerings to best serve the unique needs of people recovering from COVID-19 or navigating quarantine.
To stop the spread of infection among households, where more than 60% of COVID-19 cases who know the person who exposed them originate, Test & Trace has referred people to Take Care’s hotel program. Take Care hotels provide New Yorkers living in close quarters with family members or roommates a safe place to isolate and recover. Since the launch of the program in June 2020, it has provided free food and lodging to 24,670 guests for the duration of quarantine, free transportation to and from the hotel and any necessary appointments, and onsite COVID-19 testing and health services, such as referral to monoclonal antibody treatment during their stay or onsite vaccination at the time of discharge.
To support those in quarantine or isolation at home, the Take Care program also launched its Resource Navigation program, working with local community-based organizations to help those in quarantine and isolation receive emergency food delivery and other important resources like personal care products, connections to mental health services and cash assistance so they do not have to leave their homes to meet basic needs. Since then, our community partners have helped deliver 1,369,000 meals to 173,185 New Yorkers in quarantine or isolation.
In August 2020, the Take Care program expanded its resource offerings to people isolating or quarantining at home by providing care packages, free of charge. These care packages contain PPE, a digital thermometer, a pulse oximeter, and informational material on COVID-19 — ­all critical items intended to help make isolation or quarantine safer and easier. Take Care has shipped 352,366 care packages since last summer.
In October 2020, to help those unable to work while in quarantine, the Take Care program began distributing cash assistance. Since then, it has disbursed $1,000 to 1,951 New Yorkers, for a total of nearly $2 million.
These programs made our contact tracers the nexus 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.
The Trace program has been powered by 4,000 contact tracers, most of whom hail from the New York City neighborhoods hardest hit by the pandemic. To connect with as many New Yorkers as possible, the Trace program ensures its contact tracers are reflective of the communities they serve. Trace has hired contact tracers who speak over 50 languages and deploys community engagement specialists to contact hard-to-reach clients, including those who do not have phones. Community engagement specialists have reached 33,000 New Yorkers, 52% of whom live in the neighborhoods the City’s Taskforce on Racial Inclusion & Equity (TRIE) determined were 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, call 212-COVID19 to get tested and report your exposure.
Participating in the contact tracing process is one of the most important things you can do to help stop the spread of COVID in your community and your city. To make sure Test & Trace’s contact tracers can reach everyone who tests positive or is exposed to COVID-19, it is crucial for New Yorkers to continue to do their part to stop the spread.
If you receive a phone call or text message from “NYC Test & Trace,” “NYC COVID Test” or a phone number beginning with 212-540 or 212-242, please be sure to answer so a contact tracer can assist you.
“We know that a robust contact tracing program has been and remains a crucial facet of our response to this pandemic,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. ​”The New York City Test & Trace program’s diligent efforts have helped stop the spread and connected New Yorkers who tested positive for or were exposed to COVID to vital resources. I congratulate our hardworking contact tracers on reaching one million close contacts — and counting. Our city owes them an enormous debt of gratitude.”
“As the Borough with the highest COVID death toll and hospitalization rate since the onset of the pandemic, we are grateful for the diligent work of the NYC Test & Trace teams in the Bronx,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “The NYC Test & Trace Corps has supported mobile testing and vaccination sites, canvassed and done vital outreach in our communities to raise health literacy around COVID-19. This has helped Bronx residents make informed decisions and promoted public understanding of how the vaccine saves lives. I applaud them for helping to identifying over one million close contacts of confirmed cases and their tireless efforts to help us combat this virus.”​
“Queens has tragically seen first-hand how dangerous COVID-19 can be, but the pandemic would have spread much faster with deadly consequences had it not been for the tireless, life-saving work of our NYC Test & Trace Corps,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Jr. “From alerting one million of our neighbors about potential exposure to the virus to providing critical resources to those in isolation, the remarkable efforts of our contact tracers here in Queens and across the city have helped fuel our comeback. We could not be more grateful for their work.”
“While public health authorities in states and cities outside New York were trimming back their COVID contact tracing programs this year, switching to automated calls, limiting the categories of cases they traced, or simply throwing their hands up and asking infected individuals to reach out to their contacts themselves, New York City stepped up its efforts by hiring more tracers and devoting more resources to the NYC Test & Trace Corps’ critical mission,” said Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee. “The proof is in the pudding. New York City has avoided the dramatic spikes caused by the Delta variant across the country, and emergency departments in the city are well equipped to handle the pandemic. Once again, New York City has served as a model for public health authorities around the world, and New Yorkers should rightly be proud.”
“Since its inception in the early days of the pandemic, the NYC Test & Trace Corps has been a welcomed source of safety, security, and reassurance for all New Yorkers,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera, Chair of the Committee on Hospitals. “With their careful and comprehensive tracking of positive COVID-19 cases, the Trace program has granted us critical insight into the virus’s transmission and behavior, allowing us to best care for our constituents in a time of otherwise great uncertainty. I applaud them on their efforts, and thank them for all they have done these past months to bring comprehensive, culturally competent, and accessible care and resources to the Five Boroughs.”
“It has been very gratifying to be able to let our fellow neighbors know that they have a team of people looking out for and providing them with resources to aid in their livelihood and ensure that they can quarantine effectively,” said Amanda Brown, Program Director of BronxWorks. “We have also had the opportunity to make deliveries throughout the pandemic providing diapers, hygiene items, baby food and household items such as tissue and toilet paper. Those assisted, expressed their sincere gratitude, as they had no family members or friends to assist with obtaining these items during their quarantine.”
“People in quarantine need extra support to cover lost wages and pay for essential expenses, promoting public health by making it possible for exposed New Yorkers to remain in quarantine,” said Richard R. Buery, Jr. CEO of Robin Hood. “Through the generosity of our donors, we were able to provide $1,000 in unconditional cash assistance to nearly 2,000 low-income New Yorkers to help pay bills like rent or utilities, purchase food, or pay for other critical expenses. We know that unconditional cash assistance provides those in need with dignity and autonomy. We cannot defeat the spread of this virus without meeting the real-life economic burdens of quarantine for those most in need.”
“As New York City was enveloped in the COVID-19 pandemic, the JCC was proud to be chosen to join the NYC Test & Trace Corps’ outreach effort,” said Sandor G. Haft, Director of Resource Navigation for JCC of Staten Island. “Our team of Resource Navigators have made thousands of calls to their NYC neighbors to provide them with assistance during their time in quarantine and consistently went the “extra mile” to connect people with essential resources.”
“The City University of New York, Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, with our team of nearly 70 navigators has connected those impacted with COVID-19 with a range of critical resources including physical and mental health resources, services to combat financial and housing difficulties and food insecurity,” said Ashish Joshi, Senior Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs and Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. “These resources have significantly helped reduce the negative impacts of COVID-19 on New Yorkers and their families, particularly among marginalized and minority communities. CUNY SPH is committed to work in partnership with New York City on such a critical project supporting the health and future of New Yorkers.”
“Imagine having to quarantine and your refrigerator is empty. That is where we come in and connect vulnerable New Yorkers to resources,” said Amy Nunez, Director of Outreach and Special Projects for RiseBoro. “So far, RiseBoro Resource Navigators have assisted over 35,000 families affected by COVID to isolate safely. We are linking them to their local pharmacy, bodega, supermarket and government services and resources. It is an honor to serve our community.”
“From the start of the pandemic onwards, CPC has provided New Yorkers with invaluable resources to get them through these uncertain times,” said Edgar Pereira, Chief Program Officer for the Chinese-American Planning Council. “CPC has helped thousands of New Yorkers who have to self-quarantine with health referrals, food and supply deliveries, and social services. We also work to help New Yorkers who have been affected by the pandemic’s economic impacts. Through cash assistance grants and food pantry services, CPC has ensured that New York’s most vulnerable community members are not forgotten.”