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County ramps up virus contact-tracing efforts

County Public Health gets $41M to ID new cases, manage exposure

July 7th, 2020 12:25 PM

By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

Cook County Department of Public Health officials announced last month that they received nearly $41 million in COVID-19 relief funding from the Illinois Department of Public Health through federal funds to "build-up capacity and infrastructure of local health departments to rapidly scale-up and sustain major COVID-19 contact tracing programs," according to a statement the department released in June.

During a press conference held June 11, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle joined health department officials to announce the initiative, which they said could allow the county to trace 3,000 contacts a day, according to an ABC 7 report.

"For Cook County to reopen, it is critical that we quickly ramp up our contact-tracing capabilities. The program will help us continue to mitigate the pandemic by identifying new cases quickly and helping residents who have been exposed to someone carrying the disease," Preckwinkle said.

In the health department's release, officials explained there are "about 25 contact tracers for the 2.5 million people who live in suburban Cook County," adding that the department's purview doesn't include Chicago, Evanston, Skokie, Oak Park and Stickney.

Health department officials explained that contact tracing is a process requiring multiple steps that include "identifying, assessing and managing persons exposed to a positive COVID-19 case and connecting exposed persons to resources to assist them during quarantine."

First District Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson's office explained in an email sent to constituents in June that the health department anticipates starting its first group of contact tracings by early August, that tracers "will be brought on in groups of 50-100," and that the department will "have a full team by the fall."

Anyone interested in contact-tracing jobs can fill out a form online, which is available at the health department's website: cookcountypublichealth.org. Residents should understand that completing the form does not promise a job or job interview.

"Contact tracers will be trained in the basics of the virus, epidemiology, case investigation, and contact tracing," according to the form.

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com

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