Millions for COVID-19 contact tracers to be distributed soon
The number of deaths from COVID-19 rose by 14 Monday and cases increased by 738, officials said, as Illinois experiences its first full week with fewer COVID-19 restrictions.
Statewide, the number of Illinoisans succumbing to the respiratory disease is 6,902 with 142,461 cases in total, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported.
Testing for COVID-19 shows a seven-day average of 2.7%, and the recovery rate remains at 94%.
On Friday, Illinois entered Phase 4 of a five-phase reopening plan allowing people to gather in groups of 50 or less, attend movies in theaters and dine indoors, among other changes.
A crucial element of preventing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases is a robust contact tracing program. The state is seeking to hire about 4,000 contact tracers in addition to those already working for state and county health departments.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday that $230 million to employ contact tracers in Illinois' 97 local health departments "is on its way out the door, with final disbursement coming in the next few weeks."
That's welcome news for the Lake County Health Department, which is collaborating with the state on a contact tracing pilot project.
"We have about 70 contact tracers currently working on the COVID-19 response, and look forward to staffing up incrementally with the state funds to make sure our new hires are properly trained to do this very important work," Lake County Health Department Communications Manager Hannah Goering said.
More than 1,530 people have expressed interest so far, Goering noted. "We continue to screen applicants, and once we receive the state funding, will begin our hiring," she added.
The DuPage County Health Department has submitted an application for its allocated amount of $4.9 million, and all funds will go to hire additional staff "to assist us in quickly and efficiently reaching out to newly identified cases of COVID-19," Executive Director Karen Ayala.
"This will then allow us to quickly identify and reach out to close contacts of those individuals, so that we can become more strategic in our outreach and response," Ayala said.
Pritzker also announced that in July the state will invite qualifying community-based organizations to participate in the contact tracing initiative.
The impact of entering Phase 4 and whether it will cause more cases of the virus or increase hospitalizations won't be felt immediately, experts said. Masks are still required in public, and state guidelines involving social distancing remain in place.
So far, daily cases -- 738 -- are lower than the monthly average of 758; the daily death tally of 14 falls below the monthly average of 53. Those tallies are often lower after the weekend because some facilities are not reporting COVID-19 fatalities.
A total of 26,918 tests for COVID-19 occurred in the last 24 hours, and the infection rate -- 2.7% -- reflects the seven-day average.
One key indicator showed as of Sunday that 1,501 people were hospitalized with the disease compared to the seven-day average of 1,553.
As of Monday, the probable cases of COVID-19 are 1,053 and probable deaths from the disease are 201, that state health department reported.