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As contact tracing ebbs in parts of US, NYC stays committed

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Coronavirus contact tracing programs across the U.S. scaled back their ambitions as cases surged in winter, but New York City has leaned into its $600 million tracing initiative.

The city hired more tracers during the holiday season surge and in early March hit its goal of reaching at least 90% of people who test positive, a mark it hadn’t reached since around Thanksgiving. Last week, the number hit 96%.

Overwhelmed tracing programs elsewhere confronted the wave by switching to automated calls, limiting the types of cases they trace or telling infected people simply to reach out to their contacts themselves.

But New York remains committed, saying tracing helped curb the city’s second surge and is all the more necessary now as vaccination campaigns race to outpace the spread of worrisome viral variants.

“This is the danger zone, where we can’t let our guard down,” contact tracing chief Dr. Ted Long says.

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