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Suburban Cook County COVID-19 Contact Tracing Initiative

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic that began in January 2020, Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) had about 15 contact tracers to investigate routine outbreaks in its jurisdiction of suburban Cook County (excluding Chicago, Evanston, Skokie, Oak Park, and Stickney Townships, which have their own state-certified health departments).

On June 11, the agency announced it would be receiving $41 million in COVID-19 federal relief funding from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to build its capacity and infrastructure and rapidly scale-up and sustain major COVID-19 contact tracing programs.

CCDPH has endeavored to grow its contact tracing over the last few months from 25 to a goal of 400 people. We have conducted 500 interviews and, since bringing 75 new contact tracers and case investigators onboard, have almost tripled our capacity. We have accelerated our hiring processes to ensure we are able to have most teams onboarded by the end of the year. Those that are working are having great success reaching and placing COVID-positive individuals into isolation.

CCDPH case investigators and contact tracers have been having great success:

  • Reaching and interviewing cases and contacts
  • Eliciting information from positive cases about their close contacts
  • Placing COVID-19+ individuals into isolation
  • Placing asymptomatic close contacts into quarantine and self-monitoring

Related Activities

Contact tracing is a critically important tool in the fight against COVID-19 and is most effective when used in combination with other mitigation strategies. In addition to contact tracing, CCDPH has conducted the following additional activities:

  • Responded to or observed over 300 violations related to masking, physical distancing and sanitation in food establishments
  • Worked over 175 school-related cases this fall
  • Provided guidance and support to 200 long-term care facilities
  • Issued a Request for Proposals from community-based organizations (see Community-Based Organizations Will Provide Community Support below)
  • Enlisted the support of worker centers to assist with educating employees and employers throughout suburban Cook County on best practices to prevent outbreaks in the workplace

CCDPH will be launching the “Answer the Call” contact tracing campaign the week of Nov. 9. The campaign will consist of English and Spanish ads on social media (Snapchat, Instagram, Google Ads and YouTube), radio and expressway billboards. This campaign will stress the importance of answering the phone when a Cook County contact tracer calls from 312-777-1999.

Community-Based Organizations Will Provide Community Support

As part of its contact tracing initiative, CCDPH and the Hektoen Institute of Medicine, released a Request for Proposals (RFP) on Sept. 11, 2020, for community-based organizations (CBOs) serving suburban Cook County areas most affected by COVID-19. As much as $5.4M in funds will be awarded to provide contact tracing outreach, education, support services and access to testing, beginning in December. Read the press release. Grant awards will be announced via email the week of November 9.

The Suburban Cook County COVID-19 Contact Tracing Community Supports Program recognizes the value of community-based organizations as credible, trusted entities, and the importance of leveraging existing community assets and infrastructure to share timely and evolving COVID-19 information and provide resources to communities and populations most impacted by the pandemic. It aims to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 and lessen its impacts, through:

  • Education and outreach to priority communities and populations;
  • Expansion of existing programs and services that can help households isolate and quarantine, or address social and economic challenges; and
  • Increased availability and access to testing.

This effort is designed to provide grassroots education and support by organizations already embedded in and trusted by the communities they serve. As such, CCDPH is particularly interested in funding organizations that have successfully provided programming driven by community voice.

Cook County Health has contracted with the Hektoen Institute of Medicine to collect, review and score applications and award the grants. The Hektoen Institute of Medicine is a nonprofit health service and research organization that administers grant awards on behalf of community organizations, independent investigators, and institutions working to improve care and resources for under-served, priority populations.

Priority populations include, but are not limited to: racial and ethnic minorities, foreign-born individuals, people with limited English proficiency, undocumented immigrants, people living close to or below the federal poverty line, justice-involved individuals, disconnected youth, people experiencing homelessness, people with disabilities (including deaf and hard of hearing), people who identify as LGBTQ, and older adults.

All 501(c)(3) not-for-profit CBOs that can demonstrate service delivery to priority populations and/or community areas in suburban Cook County (excluding Evanston, Oak Park, Skokie and Stickney Township, which are outside CCDPH’s jurisdiction) were eligible to apply by the Oct. 9th deadline.

For more information and to apply, visit the Hektoen website. Questions may be directed to Hektoen via email.

Job Opportunities

Posted contact tracer positions can be found on the CCH Careers webpage. To view open positions, click on “external applicants.” To search by keyword, use the term “contact tracer.” To search by job category, select “public health.

For additional information, please click on the links below:

Please do not call Cook County Health or CCDPH offices or staff due to the large volume of expected applicants.

Resources

Cook County Resources

Cook County ShinyApp

IDPH

CDC