Governor Andrew M. Cuomo this week announced more than $30 million statewide and $1.35 million in Rockland County to enhance COVID-19 contact tracing and flu prevention in advance of the fall flu season. The majority of funds, available to counties in the form of grants, will be used to increase local health department staffing capacity for enhanced detection, surveillance and prevention of COVID-19. The Governor also announced $2 million in additional immunization funds to expand flu vaccination rates statewide to prevent overwhelming the healthcare system in the event of a severe flu season. “As we continue to battle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we are also preparing for the upcoming fall flu season,” Governor Cuomo said. “We are making $30 million dollars in grant funding available to counties to increase their contact tracing – which has worked very well for us – and to expand flu prevention and vaccinations to help ensure counties are ready to provide both flu and COVID-19 testing to residents.”
The NYS Contact Tracing Initiative, in partnership with counties, uses the NY Communicable Disease Management System or CommCare. To ensure consistency throughout the state, counties receiving this funding will be required to use CommCare for all COVID-19 investigation and tracing activities. Awards are based on county populations plus a supplemental award for the percentage of statewide COVID-19 cases in each county. New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “New Yorkers have worked hard over the past several months, through these difficult times, to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” “Initiatives like this, that strengthen contact tracing efforts throughout the state, will be the key to maintaining this hard-fought success, by stopping local outbreaks before they get out of control. With the possibility of COVID-19 cases resurging in the fall and winter, I encourage everyone stay healthy by getting a flu shot this year and to be prepared to receive a COVID-19 vaccination when one becomes available.”
This funding has been made available through a CDC-sponsored cooperative agreement for Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Infectious Diseases. In addition to contact tracing funding, the Governor announced $2 million provided by the CDC to be distributed to local health departments throughout the State in advance of the flu season to make sure everyone gets their flu shot. The Spring 2020 COVID-19 emergency strained NYS’s healthcare system; a severe influenza season combined with another wave of COVID-19 could easily overwhelm it. Influenza is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality, responsible for preventable healthcare visits, hospitalizations and deaths. Over 22,000 New Yorkers were hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza during the 2019-2020 influenza season.