Watch CBS News

No Plans To End COVID Contact Tracing Program On Which State Of Illinois Has Been Spending Millions

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Contact tracing was touted as one of the most important tools to stop the spread of the pandemic.

The State of Illinois spent, and continues to spend, millions on it. But we wanted to know - how long will that continue?

CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey has been digging into the numbers. She learned that the short answer is there's no clear end for contract tracing in sight.

While vaccination rates have dramatically changed the job for contact tracers, most counties still see a need for many months to come.

Komal Gujarathi, Will County's Contact Tracing Program Manager, is hoping that she will eventually be out of a job.

"That is the goal," Gujarathi said. "I actually had recently stopped working and was a stay-at-home mom when the pandemic hit."

But Gujarathi said she could not stand by and watch during this global health crisis.

"I sought out this job for that very reason, to help during the pandemic," she said. "So I'm perfectly fine with being without a job when this is all over."

Her team fluctuated from about 65 contact tracers to 119 last fall, when the infection rates were at their highest. It was a similar situation in Lake County.

"We were handling a lot of the more complicated cases," said Adriano Yashar, a medical student and contract tracer in Lake County.

Grants from the Illinois Department of Public Health helped fund these efforts across the state.

To date, nearly $3.3 million have funded contact tracer salaries in Lake County and the current contract extends until December.

That might sound like a long time, but Adriano said they still have a lot of work to do in connection with unvaccinated populations – kids in particular.

"I know many of the schools in the county are now off, or transitioning to summer school, but if there was a case in a classroom, there are still going to be kids who are sitting around that student; who may have interacted with the students in their athletics or extracurricular activities - and so they are still being exposed and they would still require that follow-up." Yashar said.

DuPage County said over $7.9 million has been paid out to more than 300 contact tracers so far.
Their contracts are extended through the end of July with a possibility of extensions.

Meanwhile, the City of Chicago's contact tracing program is federally funded through June 30, 2022. The city's contract tracing program and resource coordination hub received $56 million dollars for two years.

Contact tracers are still reaching out to every single close contact they can find for positive COVID cases. The only difference is now is that if you're vaccinated and don't have symptoms, you don't need to quarantine.

Hickey: "And it sounds like you don't, at least right now, don't see really an end in sight for really wrapping this up."

Gujarathi: "Correct, for at this point we do still see contact policing efforts existing to some extent, until we get to a much better place where we can comfortably say, 'OK, we've got everything under control.'"

The City of Chicago said us at one point, they hired about 600 contact tracers - and those roles are now evolving to include vaccine education and outreach projects.

Huge amounts of money were spent locally -- Do we know how much the state ended up shelling out for these programs overall?

At last check, local health departments across the state received approximately $230 million — Community-based organizations are received another $60 million.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.