Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Public Health have awarded a $56 million grant to the Chicago Workforce Partnership to step up contact tracing efforts in the city.
The grant, given in collaboration with the University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Chicago and Malcolm X College, calls for the hiring of at least 600 individuals to help with contact tracing efforts, as the city hopes to prevent a resurgence of coronavirus.
“COVID-19’s outrageously disproportionate impact on Chicago’s most vulnerable communities has demanded that we as a city step up and take swift action to support our fellow residents in need,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “This exciting contact tracing initiative will not only significantly bolster our efforts to stay ahead of this terrible disease, but it will also create new jobs and opportunities for individuals to join in the fight against COVID-19, as well as develop invaluable skills for their own future careers in public health and patient care.”
The grant money will be used to create a group called the “COVID Tracing Corps” and the “COVID Resource Coordination Hub,” which will hire 600 individuals to provide contact tracing services int eh city.
Contact tracing helps to determine whether individuals have come into contact with vulnerable populations after testing positive for coronavirus, and has been deemed an imperative part of the city and state’s plans to reopen businesses during the pandemic.
“A robust and comprehensive contact tracing program is key to containing the spread of COVID-19 and further driving down the number of new cases,” CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement.
Employees hired in the program will earn $20 per hour, with supervisors earning $24 per hour, according to the press release. Hiring will be done through neighborhood-based organizations, with at least 85 percent of grant money going to groups within “communities of high-economic hardship,” according to the press release.
Contact tracing is used to determine if individuals have come in “close, prolonged contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19.”
Investigators interview individuals who have tested positive for the virus, then ask those individuals to create a list of individuals with whom they’ve been in contact with during their so-called “infectious period.”
Once those contacts have been identified, they are then contacted by investigators, and may be asked to self-quarantine or isolate.
Officials will stay in touch with those individuals, likely through text messages or a web/mobile platform, to see if they develop symptoms, or if they also test positive for the virus.
Those interested in learning about jobs through the program can visit the city’s contact tracing website.