The Cook County Department of Public Health will scale up its COVID-19 contact tracing program within the next six months, thanks to a $41 million grant from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“Contact tracing is crucial to preventing and controlling the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Rachel Rubin, CCDPH co-lead and senior medical officer in a statement. “We currently have about 25 contact tracers working on COVID-19. Expanding our workforce to 400 people will enable CCDPH to reach up to 90% of case contacts within 24 hours.”
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle called the grant a win for the county that will allow the public health department to focus on communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
“What we have seen with this pandemic is another reminder that until we address the structural issues black and brown communities face, they will continue to be disproportionately impacted,” Preckwinkle said in a statement. “I am committed to addressing all of the drivers in our communities that contribute to such inequities, and this funding will certainly help.”
As much as 20%, or $8 million, of the grant funding will be earmarked for community-based organizations located within or that primarily serve areas of high economic hardship, discrimination and racism. CCDPH plans to use funds to conduct public health education and outreach, provide enhanced COVID-19 case management and referrals for resources, and address other social and economic impacts, like food and housing instability.
CCDPH intends to hire contact tracers from the community, including mulitlingual individuals, and will prioritize those who are most vulnerable and most impacted by COVID-19, according to officials.