Cook County to invest nearly $41 million in contact tracing

Cook County to invest nearly $41 million in contact tracing

Cook County will invest nearly $41 million into contact tracing for COVID-19, with the hope to be able to trace 3,000 contacts per day.

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle and officials from the Cook County Department of Public Health announced the plan on Thursday. The funds, which are coming from a grant from the Illinois Department of Public Health, will allow the county to expand its current efforts, which consists of 25 employees, to nearly 400 workers.

“For Cook County to reopen, it is critical that we quickly ramp up our contact tracing capabilities,” Preckwinkle said.

Dr. Kiran Joshi, the department’s co-lead, said contact tracing applicants will be prioritized based on those who live in the “most vulnerable” areas and those that have been most impacted by COVID-19. He said doing so should help to establish trust in these communities, which will lead to contacts being more willing to provide personal information.

Hiring will take place over the next several months, Joshi said, with the first hires coming on board in August. All 400 workers, which include contact tracers, case investigators, care resource coordinators and supervisory staff, are expected to be in place by the fall.

Up to $8 million of the funds will be used to support community-based organizations operating in the communities hit hardest by the pandemic. It will be earmarked to assist with public health education and outreach, enhanced COVID-19 case management and referrals for resources, and to address social determinants of health such as housing instability and a lack of food.

African American and Latinx communities continue to be disproportionately affected by COVID-19, said Dr. Rachel Rubin, the department’s co-lead.

“It’s especially important to do it in these communities and it’s not just the case identification and the contact tracing, but it’s also providing them the means to abide by isolation and quarantine,” she said.

Latinx makes up nearly 20 percent of the state’s total 6,095 COVID-19 deaths, despite making up 17 percent of the population. African Americans make up 28.5 percent of the state’s total deaths, despite making up less than 15 percent of the population.

The city of Chicago has announced efforts to hire 600 contact tracers and Governor JB Pritzker has announced plans to hire nearly 4,000 contact tracers for the state of Illinois.


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