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Alex Azar: Trump administration putting boots on the ground to help states

The White House Coronavirus Task Force has been preparing to get states more expertise, staff and funding to execute on contact tracing and other public health efforts. Since the first reports of COVID-19 in the United States, the Trump administration has been putting boots on the ground to help states combat it.

When Washington state identified the first case in January and requested help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a team was on its way within hours to help trace contacts. On Jan. 30, with just seven U.S. cases confirmed, Trump administration leaders had our first call with governors to advise them and listen to their needs. This cooperation slowed the spread of the virus and helped us understand it better.

Now, every nation with a COVID-19 outbreak has had to move from containing the virus to mitigation strategies like social distancing. The goal is to drive the spread down to where we can trace contacts of new cases. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have led a whole-of-government effort, working with the states, to get us to that point.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force, in concert with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Health and Human Services, has been preparing for weeks to get states more expertise, staff and funding to execute on contact tracing and other public health efforts.

States are already using the president’s evidence-based guidelines for reopening the economy, working with the hundreds of CDC staff already embedded in or recently deployed to health departments, and collaborating closely with FEMA and HHS to get more funding and supplies.

We will support every state and territory in reopening. CDC is deploying field teams tailored to the needs of states, as requested, to assist with contact tracing plans and advise on tools like digital technology and serologic testing. Health departments will need thousands of new workers or contractors to do the legwork of contact tracing, which is why the Trump administration just disbursed $631 million to support hiring and other needs, on top of $560 million provided in March.

Last week, President Trump secured $25 billion in more funding for testing and related work, including contact tracing, and the administration will send at least $11 billion of that to states and other partners on the ground. The administration takes new steps daily to help states expand testing, from identifying unused lab capacity to providing new options for sample collection.

The president’s all-of-America approach has meant federal agencies working hand in hand with state and local governments to slow the virus’ spread. The president will use that same approach to take the next step: protecting Americans while we open our country again.

Alex M. Azar II is U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services.

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Posted: April 27, 2020 Monday 06:38 PM