WXXI AM News

Bill to fund more contact tracers pursued

Jul 16, 2020

Congressman Joe Morelle (Center) discusses funding contact tracing with Monroe County Health Commissioner Mike Mendoza (Left) and County Executive Adam Bello (Right)
Credit James Brown / WXXI News

Contact tracing jobs aren’t new, in fact, Monroe County Health Commissioner Mike Mendoza said the idea has been around for a long time. It's become more important during the coronavirus pandemic, because contact tracers track down people who were exposed to COVID-19 and find out where they’ve been. 

In a news conference Wednesday, Mendoza called it “a mix of art and science” that he said the region is going to need a lot more of.

“So we’re taking people who may not have any formal skills in healthcare and we’re providing them skills in conversation and communication which I think can be applicable to any number of fields,” said Mendoza

The need for more people with those skills is one reason for Congressman Joe Morelle’s Jobs to Fight COVID-19 Act. On Wednesday, Morelle said the act could provide $100 Billion in grants to state and local governments “to hire, train, and deploy newly unemployed workers” for needed roles like contact tracers. Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said it’s the time for the federal government to step in is now.

“At a time when the nation is facing substantial unemployment,” said Bello. “And there are our record unemployment benefit claims, it's imperative that the federal government take this action to help get people back to work so they can support their families to make ends meet.”

Morelle said the training could lead to long-term careers in public health. 

“This really grew out of our continued desire to look at ways to address the economic crisis and the healthcare crisis while providing support for state and localities that are really on the front lines,” said Morelle.

The measure also requires states to send their COVID-19 data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This week President Donald Trump has ordered that COVID-19 data from states will come to the White House first.

Morelle said that the president’s attempts to diminish the CDC and leading infectious disease official Dr. Anthony Fauci borders on malfeasance.

“The president has got to stop, he’s gotta stop acting like a 5 year old, who sees everything through the prism of his reelection,” said Morelle. This is about a national pandemic and national economic crisis.”

The bill has co-sponsors in both the House and Senate including former presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Cory Booker, but it has not been passed yet.