Plan to hire hundreds of coronavirus contact tracers running behind in Chicago

WGN Investigates

CHICAGO — Contact tracing is expected to intensify in Chicago in the next few weeks after Mayor Lightfoot announced a $56 million grant to hire 600 contact tracers last month. 

The project run by Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership is linking with community organizations to get people hired by mid-August, which is two weeks behind the initial schedule.

The Chicago Department of Public Health has been operating its own contact tracing efforts, but the new program will help amplify those efforts. CCWP CEO Karin Norrington-Reaves says, “right now the estimation is that they will make 4,500 calls a day.”

WGN Investigates obtained numbers from Chicago’s Department of Public Health on the amount of contact tracing calls being made right now. While there were 138 attempts made on July 23, tracers were only able to reach 55 individuals, that’s about a 40 percent success rate for the day.

Contact tracing programs in NYC and Boston have been criticized for glitches and poor direction. Norrington-Reaves says this program will run differently, “the volume of work is going to ebb and flow but the need to prepare a public health work force for tomorrow is going to continue to exist.”

Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership hopes that once the need for contact tracing slows down, many of the new hires will be able to move into other public health sector jobs. 

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