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Contact tracing is the key to getting Maryland back to something near normal | READER COMMENTARY

Kashmiri health workers talk to local residents during a contact-tracing drive after the first person in the region was tested positive for COVID-19 in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir one month ago. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness. (AP Photo/ Dar Yasin)
Kashmiri health workers talk to local residents during a contact-tracing drive after the first person in the region was tested positive for COVID-19 in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir one month ago. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness. (AP Photo/ Dar Yasin)(Dar Yasin/AP)

In your article about Gov. Larry Hogan’s Wednesday afternoon news conference, I believe you buried the lede (“Gov. Hogan mandates masks in stores, on transit; warns against quick end to measures to contain the coronavirus,” April 15). The big news is not that he is mandating face coverings in businesses and on public transportation, it’s the truly great news reported in the 13th paragraph: “Maryland is increasing its tracing effort. The state has 250 people conducting contact tracing. It plans to quadruple that force to at least 1,000 dedicated contact tracers.”

If we ever want to get back to life as we once knew it, it’s all about testing and contact tracing. Contact tracing is a tried and true method that public health experts know how to employ. It has been used successfully to control many other infectious diseases, but nothing, in this country, on the scale of COVID-19.

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Unless revved up testing and contact tracing is in place, once we relax social distancing, more disease transmission will occur.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security has issued a report, “A National Plan to Enable Comprehensive COVID-19 Case Finding and Contact Tracing in the US" (Full disclosure: I had nothing to do with it). In this report, the authors lay out an ambitious plan for a coordinated national effort of case-based intervention which would require a huge infusion of funding by Congress and tremendous cooperation among state and local health departments and between health departments and the federal government.

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I don’t have a lot of faith in the federal government right now, but I am heartened to see that our state, at least, might rely on good public health thinking to lead us through the epidemic of COVID-19.

Dr. Robin Weiss, Baltimore

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