Schatz urges state to quickly bolster contact tracing with $50M in federal funding

Schatz urges state to quickly bolster contact tracing with $50M in federal funding
FILE - In this March 3, 2020, file photo, Hawaii state Department of Health microbiologist Mark Nagata demonstrates the process for testing a sample for coronavirus at the department's laboratory in Pearl City, Hawaii. (Source: Audrey McAvoy)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii will get $50 million in federal funding to dramatically expand its COVID-19 contact tracing and testing program.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, announced the appropriation in a news release Wednesday and encouraged state leaders to “move at the speed of the virus ... to establish a contact tracing program that is fully operational as soon as possible.”

He added, “There’s simply not any time left, but there is plenty of money to get this done.”

Contact tracing is the work of finding close contacts to infected patients in order to quickly isolate them, preventing the further spread of the virus.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has expressed frustration about the Health Department’s current contact tracing program, which he says is simply too small to handle a potential surge in cases.

The state, meanwhile, has said it’s confident that it has enough contact tracers for the current threat and is training more.

Schatz said the funding can be used to develop, purchase, administer, process and analyze COVID-19 tests, scale-up laboratory capacity, trace contacts, and support employer testing.

This story will be updated.

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