The Cook County Department of Public Health announced Friday it is planning to spend up to $5.4 million to educate people about contact tracing, provide services to quarantined and isolated suburban county residents and facilitate setting up more COVID-19 testing sites.
The department is issuing a request for proposals to community-based organizations to do that work in areas most affected by COVID-19. Proposals submitted will be scored by the nonprofit Hektoen Institute of Medicine, a health service and research organization that administers grant awards for underserved people.
Contact tracing, which Gov. J.B. Pritzker repeatedly has said is crucial to reopening the economy, involves reaching out to people who contract the coronavirus and urge them to isolate and provide the names of people with whom they had close, prolonged encounters in previous days. They then reach out to the contacts and urge them to get tested and go into quarantine, so they can’t spread the disease.
The main aim of the proposed county program is to “develop trust in these communities so they will pick up the phone when we call,” said Dr. Rachel Rubin, one of the department’s two chiefs. She said folks contacted should know tracers are there “to protect them and their families and their communities.”