Death toll in U.S. tops 40,000; governors face pressure to reopen

Massachusetts governor says there’s “value” in phone call contact tracing

As states begin looking to revive their economies, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker urged governors to implement contact tracing programs like Massachusetts has to identify residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 and those they have come into contact with the virus so they can isolate themselves and contain the illness.

“I think it’s going to be critical for every state that wants to get open and back to something like a new normal to put some kind of mechanism like this in place,” Baker said Sunday on “Face the Nation.”

Massachusetts is working with the organization Partners in Health, which Baker described as the “gold standard,” to conduct contract tracing. The state will hire 1,000 people in all, tasking them with calling Massachusetts residents who tested positive for COVID-19 and those they have had close contact with, asking them to self-isolate.

“For us to get back on our feet and start thinking about reopening, we have got to have better knowledge and better understanding and support for people who are dealing with this virus and those they’ve come in close contact with, and this is going to be a big initiative,” he said.

When pressed on why Massachusetts is using phone calls to reach people instead of digital technologies, Baker said he believes there will be a role for both.

“I don’t think it’s an either/or. I think it’s a both/and,” he said. “But just based on this stuff we started doing already, there’s tremendous value in having conversations with people who are COVID-19 positive, not just in terms of who they’ve been in contact with, but also what it’s going to take to help them stay isolated and, you know, manage their way through the virus themselves.”

Public health experts say contact tracing will be a key pillar of the coronavirus response.

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