Kane County Health Department awaiting OK for $12 million COVID-19 tracing plan

Updated 7/10/2020 4:39 PM

Contact tracing of Kane County residents who contract the COVID-19 virus would ramp up to a new level under a $12 million plan unveiled Friday.

The plan is to use $12 million of federal CARES Act money to hire an outside firm to conduct the contact tracing. The state guidelines say the county needs 160 tracers to handle the possible number of expected positive cases. Tracing must continue through June 2021.


The money would also fund training, education and the stockpiling of a 30-day emergency supply of personal protective equipment in anticipation of a virus surge this fall. Money would also pay to provide housing to homeless people.

"We do see the spread of the virus through the homeless shelters," said Barb Jeffers, the executive director of the county health department. "We are required to make sure those who don't have the capacity to have housing be housed so they don't spread the disease."

State health officials already require county health departments to contact trace COVID-19 patients. All positive cases must be contacted within 24 hours. So far, Kane County's efforts have been hindered by a general lack of staff, according to Jeffers.

"If yesterday we got 1,000 positive cases, with the 66 people we have, there is no way to contact 1,000 people plus the contacts that go on from there," Jeffers said. "Even with every single one of us doing it, we could not manage that."

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The county health department's stats show 8,079 total COVID-19 cases in the county since the outbreak and 281 deaths.

A special county board committee overseeing $93 million in CARES Act funds will decide Monday if the contract tracing plan has enough detail and is enough of an emergency to fast track and approve it Tuesday. If not, it could be another month before more intensive contract tracing begins in Kane County.

Jeffers pushed for urgency.

"Each day we delay is another day that our community is at risk from the spread of the virus," she said.

In an interview, Jeffers said she has authority under the county's declaration of a public health emergency back in March to move ahead with the plan. Given the magnitude of the expense, she wants the county board's blessing.

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