New York coronavirus tracing program falls behind on hiring goals

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The Empire State’s $10 million coronavirus tracing program — which is being spearheaded by billionaire ex-mayor Mike Bloomberg — has so far hired a fraction of the people it committed to, according to state Health Department data.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month tapped Bloomberg as his coronavirus-tracing czar — announcing the failed Democratic presidential candidate would mastermind the program that would ultimately hire between 6,000 and 17,000 people.

But four weeks later, the joint initiative between Cuomo’s office and Bloomberg Philanthropies has successfully trained and hired just 2,164 tracers, a DOH spokeswoman confirmed.

Another 4,000 people are in the pipeline, she said.

At an April 22 press briefing in Albany, Cuomo announced Bloomberg would “coordinate the entire effort” and told reporters he wanted it up and running within weeks.

“You don’t have a month to plan and do this,” he said.

Top aide Melissa DeRosa said Bloomberg’s public health program at John Hopkins would create the online curriculum and, with the governor’s office, train, recruit, interview and perform background checks on the tracers.

But Joshua Sharfstein, the vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told The Post they were responsible for only training people — not hiring or screening which he said was up to state governments.

“We play a pretty narrow role. We just wanted to create a basic course for people to understand the basics of COVID-19,” Sharfstein said.

When asked if the school was feeding graduates to state governments, he responded: “We don’t do that. We just do the course.”

A Cuomo spokesman said any allegations they were lagging behind their targets were “patently false” and countered their own health department’s figures.

“When we launched the joint initiative with Bloomberg Philanthropies, we said we would need a range from 6,400 up to 17,000 tracers statewide,” spokesman Jason Cornwall said.

“We already have more than 6,100 tracers on the streets and another 4,000 that have completed the training and are in the final interview process,” he continued.

However, the health department confirmed that just 2,164 local and state tracers had been assigned to the seven Empire State regions which have reopened as COVID-19 cases in the hard-hit state continue to drop.

A vital part of reopening, contact tracers act as disease detectives by tracking down people who have crossed paths with confirmed coronavirus patients to let them know that they may need to take isolation precautions.

Another Cuomo spokesman insisted they were on target because New York City hadn’t reopened and said they might not need 17,000 tracers at all.

The state health department has fielded more than 50,000 applicants and said more people were being hired each day in the roles which pay $27 per hour.

Sharfstein also said more than 200,000 people had enrolled in the John Hopkins coronavirus tracing course, which is free and available to anyone.

Last week, The Post revealed how SUNY students applied for what they thought were paid positions with the state Health Department as coronavirus tracers, only to be told after the fact that the gigs are unpaid.

New York City has its own tracing program — Mayor Bill de Blasio announcing on Wednesday that 1,70 contact tracers would be ready for work next week.

nypost.com

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