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As COVID Rages, Contact Tracing, Testing Get New Push

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MD COVID Alert - MD Department of Health
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A third pharmaceutical giant, AstraZeneca, announced this morning that late-stage clinical trials of a COVID 19 vaccine in the UK and Brazil show more promising results.  The London-based company joins the American companies Pfizer and Moderna in expressing confidence that an effective vaccine will be available soon.

But in the meantime, the coronavirus continues to surge here in Maryland and across the country.  The CDC is urging Americans NOT to travel and NOT to congregate with anyone outside their immediate households this Thanksgiving.

People are also being encouraged to get tested for COVID, and although the state of Maryland has expanded the number of testing centers, people have had to endure long lines in recent days.  At the Baltimore Convention Center, for example, they are testing three times the number of people every day that they were testing during the summer. 

Two weeks ago, the Maryland Department of Health launched MD COVID Alert, a smartphone-based notification system for people who have been exposed to the virus.  So far, more than a million Marylanders have subscribed to the system. 

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Credit Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; MD Dept.of Health
Dr. Crystal Watson, left; Dr. Kathleen Feldman.

Later this hour, Tom talks with Dr. Katherine Feldman about MD COVID Alert.  She’s the Maryland Health Department’s chief public health scientist and the director of its Contact Tracing Unit.

But Tom's first guest is Dr. Crystal Watson. She’s a senior associate at the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Earlier this year, as the pandemic was first taking hold, Dr. Watson co-authored a report for the national association of US public health agencies that described what a comprehensive contact tracing program - directed nationally by the federal government - should look like. Nine months later, with the US COVID-19 death toll at a quarter-million and rising, and with another 12 million people infected, is there a federal contact tracing program up and running? 

Dr. Crystal Watson and Dr. Katherine Feldman join us today on Zoom…

If you have questions about MD COVID Alert, please email them to: mdh.mdcovidalert@maryland.gov or call the Maryland Department of Health Call Center at 877-319-1525. The Call Center is open Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and is closed on the weekends.

Host, Midday (M-F 12:00-1:00)
Rob is Midday's senior producer.