State launches contract tracing initiative

News
Meghan Peck

In this Wednesday, May 13, 2020 photo, Meghan Peck works on contact tracing at the Florida Dept. of Health in Miami-Dade County, during the new coronavirus pandemic, in Doral, Fla. In state after state, the local health departments charged with doing the detective work of running down the contacts of coronavirus patients are falling well short of the number of people needed to do the job. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

CHICAGO, Ill. (WCIA) — As the state’s overall COVID-19 case toll passed 96,000 Governor JB Pritzker on Monday announced the Illinois Contact Tracing Collaborative, a locally-driven approach to scale up contact tracing in Illinois.

According to a press release, the state is immediately engaging two local health departments to pilot this initiative: St. Clair County in the Metro East region and Lake County in the Northeast region. These local health departments were chosen for having significant needs in terms of case numbers in vulnerable populations, a robust capacity for tracing, and existing collaborations of public health personnel, medical students and volunteers already on the ground.

You can read the full release regarding the state’s contract tracing plan below.

IDPH sent assessments to the state’s 97 local health departments with half already sending back their initial assessments regarding their ability to expand and deploy their contact tracing capabilities. Starting Monday, IDPH said they will be sending out asks for workplans and budgets from all of these departments – allowing Illinois to incorporate their plans into the state’s overall plans and bringing them online in the coming weeks.

In every region and across the state, the curriculum, software, and technology will be IDPH-driven, and IDPH will support the funding for new hires at local health departments where needed through federal CARES money and Disaster Relief Act funding.

This will be a tech-based approach that will innovate and scale up existing systems. Illinois will be implementing a state-of-the-art project management and comprehension tool, to collect and hold all raw information relating to contact tracing for COVID-19 and providing forward-facing relationship management software for deployment throughout the state. This personal contact management software will allow all local health departments to work on one platform, and allow IDPH to operate with an aggregated, real-time sense of where COVID-19 is in Illinois.

IDPH has also brought on Partners in Health –a world-renowned organization for building strong community-based health systems. Partners in Health is behind what has become known as the “Massachusetts model” for what scaling up a contact tracing operation looks like. As one of the group’s earliest out-of-state collaborations, Illinois has learned what worked, what didn’t, and what challenges they continue to face as they design a community-based program in Massachusetts. Partners in Health will continue to advise IDPH on the state’s program design and how best to tailor it to all of Illinois’ communities.

All hires will be made locally, not through IDPH, and salaries will be determined by local health departments in accordance with salary rates in the region. Those interested in becoming a contact tracer can indicate their interest through IDPH, which will deliver names and resumes to local health departments. That interest form can be found on the IDPH website at dph.illinois.gov/COVID19.

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