Bloomberg to help New York build 'army' of COVID-19 tracers

New York (AFP) –


Billionaire Mike Bloomberg will help build an "army" of coronavirus tracers to help New York -- America's COVID-19 epicenter -- get up and running again, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.

The former mayor of New York City will contribute more than $10 million to the effort, which will involve testing, tracing and then isolating residents with the deadly virus.

"We have to put together a tracing army," Cuomo told reporters.

He added that the state currently has 500 tracers but will need thousands, describing the project as a "super ambitious undertaking."

Cuomo said Bloomberg has offered to develop and implement the programme, which will cover the states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

"You don't have months to do this, you have weeks," said Cuomo.

Cuomo's aide Melissa DeRosa said Bloomberg, until recently a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, would contribute "upwards of $10 million" to the project.

Widespread testing is viewed as key to states being able to lift stay-at-home orders and reopen their shuttered economies without sparking a surge of infections.

Health experts say a shortage of tests means the United States may be underestimating the extent of the virus outbreak.

New York state accounts for around a third of America's 45,630 COVID-19 deaths.

Cuomo said 474 New Yorkers had succumbed to the illness in the previous 24 hour period -- lower than the previous day -- taking the state's total toll above 15,300.

Hospitalizations and intubations were also lower as New York's crisis continues on "a gentle decline," Cuomo said.