The U.S. is way behind on coronavirus contact tracing. Here’s how we can catch up.

The U.S. is way behind on coronavirus contact tracing. Here’s how we can catch up.

The US is amassing an army of contact tracers to contain the covid ...

Get this: Vietnam, a country of 97 million people, has reported zero deaths from only 372 cases of coronavirus.

Theories abound about how they pulled it off. But public health experts chalk it up to swift action by the Vietnamese government, including contact tracing, mass testing, lockdowns, and compulsory wearing of masks.

Here, masks have become a political landmine. And despite President Trump claiming, “We have the greatest testing program anywhere in the world,” some states with surging infections have testing shortages—like Arizona.

But what about contact tracing, the process of calling potentially exposed people and persuading them to quarantine?

“I don’t think we’re doing very well,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, when asked in June about contact tracing nationwide. Most states haven’t even made public how fast or well they’re implementing the process, if at all.

Florida, the nation’s current No. 1 hotspot for the virus, is often failing to trace positive cases. This, despite the state spending over $27 million on a contract with Maximus, a company notorious for underbidding, understaffing, and performing poorly on government services contracts in multiple states.

Yet, there are bright spots elsewhere. California allocated 5 percent of staff across 90 state government departments to contact trace. North Carolina’s Wake County trained 110 librarians. In Massachusetts, counties have used state pandemic funds to hire more nurses.

There are three reasons why state and local governments should reassign public employees or hire new staff outright as the country—finally—ramps up contact tracing.

One, outsourcing what should be a public job to for-profit companies like Maximus reduces transparencylimits democratic decision-makinglowers service quality, and increases inequality, all while rarely saving public dollars. Public control is particularly important when it comes to contact tracing, which involves personal health data.

Two, this is a chance to begin to reverse decades of cuts to public health budgets, which have made the worst public health crisis in a century even worse. Almost a quarter of the local public health workforce has been let go since 2008. Federal spending on nondefense discretionary programs like public health is now at a historic low.

The Trump administration, as expected, is headed in the wrong direction. On Tuesday, it stripped the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of control over coronavirus data. State and local governments must do all they can to right the ship.

And three, contact tracing is an opportunity to chip away at systemic racism. Since World War II, public sector employment has helped equalize American society by offering workers of color stable, well-paid employment. The median wage earned by Black employees is significantly higher in the public sector than in private industries.

Privatizing public work like contact tracing contributes to racial and gender income disparities. Workers at federal call centers operated by Maximus, for example, are predominately women and people of color paid poverty wages as low as $10.80 an hour with unaffordable health care.

If #BlackLivesMatter—as many governors and mayors across the country have proclaimed in recent weeks—then contact tracing should be treated as what it is: a public good.

To catch up to other countries like Vietnam, the U.S. needs to get contact tracing right—and that means doing it with public workers.

 

 

 

 

HP unveils advanced security for remote workers — and shows how to disinfect your laptop

HP unveils advanced security for remote workers — and shows how to disinfect your laptop

HP has unveiled advanced security for businesses and their remote workforces and disclosed an extensive guide to disinfecting your laptop and other computer equipment.

The new offerings include HP Pro Security Edition, HP Proactive Security, and HP Sure Click Enterprise. These are aimed at the security threats that evolve and disrupt business every day.

With the recent surge of remote workers — due to work-from-home rules forced upon us by COVID-19 — HP said we must all be aware of the increased risks of working from home. Over 80% of home office routers have been found to be vulnerable to potential cyberattacks.

Emails also pose a significant risk to organizations, with over 90% of PC infections originating from attachments and 96% of security  breaches not discovered until months later. There are 5 billion new threats per month, based on HP’s estimates.

“Our HP Pro Security Edition takes Sure Sense and Sure Click and bundles [them] with our system,” said Andy Rhodes, global head of commercial PCs, in a press briefing. “Endpoints are still an enormous risk — 90% of infections originate with emails. Every user is at risk here.”

HP Pro Security for small businesses.

With public health concerns over COVID-19 spreading worldwide, HP wants customers to have the information they need to effectively clean HP devices and maintain a healthy work environment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cleaning surfaces, followed by disinfection, as a best practice for the prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings.

In fact, HP has issued its own whitepaper for cleaning your devices.

“We get asked [about] this every day,” said Rhodes. “If you use the wrong disinfectant, you can actually damage the product.”

A CDC-recommended disinfectant that is also within HP’s cleaning guidelines is an alcohol solution consisting of 70% isopropyl alcohol and 30% water.

The steps below use the CDC-recommended alcohol solution to clean high-touch, external surfaces on HP products:

  1. Wear disposable gloves made of latex (or nitrile gloves if you are latex-sensitive) when cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.
  2. Turn off the device and disconnect AC power (printers should be unplugged from the outlet). Remove batteries from items like wireless keyboards. Never clean a product while it is powered on or plugged in.
  3. Disconnect any external devices.
  4. Moisten a microfiber cloth with a mixture of 70% isopropyl alcohol and 30% water. Do not use fibrous materials, such as paper towels or toilet paper. The cloth should be moist, but not dripping wet. (Isopropyl alcohol is sold in most stores, usually in a 70% isopropyl alcohol/30% water solution. It may also be marketed as rubbing alcohol.)
  5. Do not spray any liquids directly onto your device.
  6. Gently wipe the moistened cloth on the surfaces to be cleaned. Do not allow any moisture to drip into areas like keyboards, display panels, or USB ports located on the printer control panels, as moisture entering the inside of an electronic product can cause extensive damage to the product.
  7. Start with the display or printer control panel (if applicable) and end with any flexible cables, like power, keyboard, and USB cables.
  8. When cleaning a display screen or printer control panel, carefully wipe in one direction, moving from the top of the display to the bottom.
  9. Ensure surfaces have completely air-dried before turning the device on after cleaning. No moisture should be visible on the surfaces of the product before it is powered on.
  10. After disinfecting, copier/scanner glass should be cleaned again using an office glass cleaner sprayed onto a clean rag to remove streaking. Streaking on the copier/scanner glass from the CDC-recommended cleaning solution could cause copy quality defects.
  11. Gloves should be discarded after each cleaning. Clean hands immediately after gloves are removed.