Cuomo Outlines Plan for ‘Tracing Army’ to Tame Outbreak

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo provides a coronavirus update during a press conference in the Red Room at the State Capitol on April 22, 2020, in Albany, NY. (Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg will help create a “tracing army” that will help find people infected with the coronavirus and get them into isolation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.

New York will work on the massive effort with neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut. Wide-scale testing, tracing and isolation are considered crucial to taming the outbreak in the hard-hit New York City region.

“It all has to be coordinated. There is no tracing that can work with one jurisdiction,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing.

The governor said that “we will literally need thousands” of people to trace the contacts of infected people.

The state currently has just 225 tracers with almost 500 more in New York City and its suburbs, and their efforts to contain the virus by finding people who had contact with the sick fell apart quickly as huge numbers of people in the region fell ill.

Cuomo said they will start to build a greater force of disease detectives by drawing from 35,000 medical field students at state and city universities.

The governor offered few details, but said Bloomberg would design the program and Johns Hopkins University also would be involved. Bloomberg will also contribute at least $10 million, Cuomo said.

Speaking shortly before Cuomo outlined his tracing plan, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined what he called a test-and-trace plan that he said would be run by the city. The mayor said once widespread testing for the virus is available the city will need as many as 5,000 to 10,000 contact tracers including city workers and employees of nonprofit groups that work with the city.

With 474 COVID-19-related deaths on Tuesday, New York state has now recorded more than 15,000 since the outbreak began last month.

The state figures do not include another 4,865 “probable” deaths in New York City that haven’t been confirmed by a lab test.

Here are other coronavirus developments in New York:

FOURTH FIREWORKS

The coronavirus has sunk major New York City events from the Puerto Rican to celebrate Israel parades, but the famous July Fourth fireworks extravaganza will happen in some form, de Blasio said Wednesday.

“One way or another, the show will go on,” he said. “There’s no day like the Fourth of July … and even if we have to do something different, we have to mark it in a meaningful way.”

He said fireworks sponsor Macy’s agrees. A message requesting comment was sent Wednesday to spokespeople for the department store chain.

De Blasio said it remains to be decided how and when the show can happen in light of whatever social distancing may still be necessary by Independence Day.

“We’re going to figure out something we can do. We have to make sure it’s safe,” the Democrat said. But he cast the plan as “part of our effort to fight back — to recognize a day of this importance, but to do it in a different way.”

Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments in New York:

WEST POINT GRADUATION

President Donald Trump will speak at a West Point graduation ceremony being designed to keep cadets safe from the coronavirus, the U.S. Military Academy announced Wednesday.

Cadets have been home since March because of the outbreak, but the Class of 2020 will return to campus in time for the June 13 ceremony. Trump recently announced he would give the commencement address.

Graduation ceremonies at the storied academy are usually held in May in a football stadium that can hold 38,000 people. West Point officials said in a release they are working on plans for a ceremony for the 1,000-member class that will “look different.”

“The size and scope of the graduation ceremony will be determined by safety considerations for cadets and the entire West Point community,” according to the academy. Decisions on family attendance and the scope of the ceremony have yet to be made.

On Saturday, the U.S. Air Force Academy hosted a scaled-down ceremony with hundreds of graduating cadets sitting in chairs eight feet apart on the school’s parade field, instead of its stadium. The pandemic forced the academy to close the ceremony to visitors.

West Point said there will be a detailed COVID-19 screening, testing, quarantine and integration plan for returning cadets.