Why Contact Tracing Efforts Have Failed to Curb Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Transmission in Much of the United States

Clin Infect Dis. 2021 May 4;72(9):e415-e419. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa1155.


By late April 2020, public discourse in the United States had shifted toward the idea of using more targeted case-based mitigation tactics (eg, contact tracing) to combat coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) transmission while allowing for the safe "reopening" of society, in an effort to reduce the social, economic, and political ramifications associated with stricter approaches. Expanded tracing-testing efforts were touted as a key solution that would allow for a precision approach, thus preventing economies from having to shut down again. However, it is now clear that many regions of the United States were unable to mount robust enough testing-tracing programs to prevent major resurgences of disease. This viewpoint offers a discussion of why testing-tracing efforts failed to sufficiently mitigate COVID-19 across much of the nation, with the hope that such deliberation will help the US public health community better plan for the future.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; contact tracing; disease mitigation; pandemic.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Contact Tracing*
  • Humans
  • Public Health
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • United States / epidemiology