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CDC’s Redfield: US ready to reopen, needs to prepare for flu season

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  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said in an interview with The Hill on Tuesday that the nation is ready to begin reopening if it adheres to CDC guidelines. 
  • Over the weekend, the CDC released a 60-page document outlining how states can begin to lift lockdowns safely. 
  • Speaking to The Hill, Redfield said that community-based transmission that “overwhelmed the public health departments in late February, March, and April” was decreasing. 
  • Still, Redfield said that as the US begins to reopen, it will need to enhance its contact tracing and testing capabilities in the months ahead as the US transitions into winter.  
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said on Tuesday that the US is ready to begin to reopen but warned that the country needs to prepare for the months ahead by investing in rapid testing and contact tracing. 

The CDC released a 60-page document over the weekend with guidelines on how states can begin to reopen safely, including enhancing social distancing measures in schools, minimizing customer contact at bars and restaurants, and lowering capacity on public transportation.

During an interview with The Hill, Redfield said that the nation is ready to begin reopening if it adheres to CDC guidelines. 

“CDC is putting out guidance,” Redfield said. “I want to clarify that the community-based transmission, the community to community transmission that overwhelmed the public health departments in late February, March, April — that’s really coming down.” 

Redfield said that the CDC and state public health systems are now focused on “fighting outbreaks” within certain communities, like nursing homes, or events, like weddings. 

“We’re going to continue to do that over the summer,” he said. 

Still, Redfield said that as the US begins to reopen, it will need to enhance its contact tracing and testing capabilities in the months ahead as the US transitions into winter. 

“In the fall/winter, we’re going to need a much more robust [contact tracing] workforce because we’re going to make the mission that we’re going to stay in containment,” he said. “I believe we’re going to get there. The testing has to be readily available, and it’s increasing.”

In order to enhance US public health infrastructure, Redfield said that the US needs to invest in the “modernization of our data system,” “laboratory resilience” for testing, and a “public health workforce” to monitor contact tracing and vaccine distribution.

“We need to have them in place for the fall and winter as we confront both COVID and flu,” he said. 

Redfield said states are going to be required to present a plan that “will be due at the end of May” outlining their plans for continued testing and contact tracing. According to Redfield, those plans will include “aggressive surveillance” of the disease spread and a tripling of the current number of contact tracers from 30,000 to 100,000. 

President Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed a desire to jumpstart the US economy after months of coronavirus stay-at-home measures put into place by state governments, and all 50 states have started easing restrictions. Georgia, South Carolina, and Montana have fully lifted restrictions, and others including Texas, Maine, and Illinois have partially reopened. Several states, including Arkansas, Iowa, and Nebraska, never issued statewide stay-at-home orders.

But experts have warned that reopening too quickly could see a resurgence of the virus in a second wave, a particular concern for the US which has seen over 1.5 million coronavirus cases and more than 91,000 deaths across its 50 states. 

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