Testing and tracing

Dear resident,

We all need this lockdown to end, and the only true solution is a vaccine.

Do we want schools and workplaces to reopen? Of course we do.

The only way that is going to happen successfully is if we have MUCH more aggressive public health management systems in place. So that is what I have been working on.

First and foremost we need to test more people — in fact, everyone.

That is why I have been pushing for weeks to expand testing. We MUST build a testing strategy…

  • For all workers and residents in long term care and group homes; systematic and regular testing regardless of symptoms
  • For essential workers, testing regularly regardless of symptoms
  • For anyone who has a concern and wants a test

A primary reason this virus is so deadly is that asymptomatic carriers are contagious and untested.

Montgomery County can and must do better. Here locally we have biohealth companies that can process thousands of tests per day.

Los Angeles has already committed to testing all of its residents, regardless of symptoms. We can do the same.

That is why I am working to connect our local bio industry with our county health emergency response team to reach out to local companies that can process more tests.

This past week I requested a plan for the County to process at least 2,000 tests per day, which our public health team says they hope to deliver soon. I will keep pushing with my colleagues until we get there.

As we put a stronger testing operation in place, we must also build a powerful “contact tracing” operation. A contact tracing program devotes staff to the crucial job of talking to a person who has tested positive to figure out everyone that person has been in contact with recently, and then contacting those individuals to request that they isolate themselves.

Countries that have succeeded in reducing virus transmission to a level that supports re-opening the economy have generally utilized aggressive contact tracing and isolation operations. It is a proven way to break the chain of transmission.

I have requested a daily report on contact tracing and the executive branch has said that will be available soon.

If we can put in place a powerful testing and tracing operation, I am optimistic that we will be on a path to reopening, even as we will continue to experience a crisis that will not be truly resolved until we have a vaccine.

Hans Riemer

P.S. My colleagues on the Council joined me in sending a list of questions to the County Executive on testing and tracing a few weeks ago, and we received his response last week. It’s a welcome beginning to the conversation, which I hope will lead to a significantly enhanced testing and tracing program by the County.