Top former U.S. health officials on Monday urged Congress to devote funding to expand the contact-tracing workforce by 180,000 to safely reopen the economy.
In a letter to House and Senate leaders, the officials also said people infected with the novel coronavirus should be able to self-isolate in vacant hotels.
“The existing public health system is currently capable of providing only a fraction of the contact tracing and voluntary self-isolation capacity required to meet the COVID-19 challenge,” they wrote.
The 16 signatories include Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration chief for President Donald Trump, and health authorities who served in the administration of President Barack Obama.
They said additional staff were needed to trace those exposed to an infected person to stem the spread of the virus until “a safe, effective vaccine is on the market.”
The letter, first obtained by U.S. public radio NPR, called for a 46-billion-dollar public health investment in a next coronavirus aid package, including 12 billion dollars for boosting the workforce, and 4.5 billion dollars to use hotels as self-isolation spaces.
“We believe the direct impact of this investment, along with an adequate testing and containment infrastructure that links in health care providers and businesses, will have a significant economic impact.
“It will allow Americans to get back to work safely and quickly, create employment, stabilize our healthcare system, and stimulate the hospitality sector,” the authors wrote.
Congress passed the fourth in a series of unprecedented relief bills last week, as the nation reels from massive economic lockdown.