Durbin Discusses Contact Tracing With Founder Of Partners In Health, Dr. Paul Farmer

SPRINGFIELD — U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today spoke with Dr. Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health (PIH), about COVID-19 contact tracing.  PIH worked with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to develop the country’s first state-wide coronavirus contact tracing program, and has subsequently worked with the State of Illinois on its contact tracing plans.  Durbin asked Dr. Farmer about what America will need to develop nationwide contact tracing capacity to identify individuals who may have been exposed to a sick patient and to notify them in order to self-isolate and access needed resources. The Heroes Act, passed by the House of Representatives, includes $75 billion for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) led testing and contact tracing effort that would support local health departments. 

“A crucial strategy to contain the spread of COVID-19 will be contact tracing efforts that can alert, isolate, and support people if they’ve potentially been exposed to someone with the virus. On my call with Dr. Farmer today, I heard what we will need to do in order to implement such a strategy, and that starts by increasing CDC funding to lead this effort and work through our local agencies and organizations.  Senate Democrats will continue to push our Republican colleagues to act with the urgency this effort demands.”

In April, Durbin sent a letter to the CDC urging support for local efforts to hire community contact tracers to engage minority populations as a way to both tackle racial health disparities and provide employment.  Durbin is also a cosponsor of the Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act, which would fund 300,000 contact tracers through partnerships with AmeriCorps and CDC.

In 2009, Durbin visited PIH’s rural clinic in Cange, Haiti.