Fighting the COVID-19 Pandemic in Chicago

The City of Chicago’s COVID-19 Contact Tracing Corps was established in 2020 in collaboration with The Partnership, the City of Chicago, and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). The Partnership received a $61 million grant from the City of Chicago and CDPH to serve as the lead coordinating organization of the Corps. Through a competitive process, The Partnership then identified 31 Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to serve as the local employers, ensuring the contact tracers lived in or near the City’s hardest-hit communities. 600+ Chicagoans were hired, trained in an earn-as-you-learn program through City Colleges of Chicago, and served as the community-based backbone of Chicago’s COVID response. These Corps members have gone on to expand their careers in healthcare.

Pandemic Initiatives

June 2020

The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership receives a $56 million grant from the City of Chicago and The Chicago Department of Public Health to create 600 contact tracing jobs.

floor stand here sign

October 2020

The Partnership joins Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in announcing the County’s allocation of $4 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding for job training and placement.

The Partnership participates in creating Cook County’s Early Warning Network. The Network reaches out to manufacturing companies that are in danger of layoffs or closure, offering business and financial services to help them avoid downsizing or going out of business.

Preckwinkle Announcing County’s allocation of $4 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security

November 2020

The Partnership joins Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot as she announces an emergency COVID-19 relief package for the hospitality industry, including a $10 million grant program for Chicago’s restaurants and bars.

4 members celebrating and posing for photo after grant announcement

January 2021

Essential workers are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. More than 160 contact tracers staff City-wide vaccination pods.

essential workers in front of clothes

February 2021

More Americans are vaccinated than infected with COVID-19; the United States reaches a milestone as more Americans are reported to have received at least one dose of a vaccine against COVID-19 than having tested positive for the virus.

workers passing out health supplies

March 2021

Over a 72-hour period, The Partnership and CDPH created and trained Corps members to staff the COVID-19 Call Center serving the City’s United Center vaccination site.

nurses at vaccination site

April 2021

The Promotores de Salud (also known as Community Health Workers or CHWs) are created to discuss COVID-19 and health-related issues in Spanish with the Hispanic community. As trusted members of the Hispanic and Black communities, Promotores provide services such as COVID-19 education and resources, patient advocacy, and translation through workshops, canvassing, and community outreach and events with the support of project partners.

community health workers passing out supplies

June 2021

Corps members launch Community Canvassing Work, conducting door-to-door canvassing in 13 hard-hit Chicago communities with low vaccination rates.

member speaking to the community

July/August 2021

Corps engages in community outreach, promoting and attending 519 city-wide events with vaccination sites. For example, the Corps supported a Swap-o-Rama event in Chicago where more than 2,000 residents were vaccinated.

vacinnation event, two nurses waiting

November 2021

Over eight months, The COVID-19 Call Center handled 303,256 inbound calls and made 79,564 outbound calls to specific populations.

The Corps supports and staff vaccination pods for children 5 to 11 years old.

corp staff vaccination pods

The Corps in 2022-2023

The Corps officially moved on to the preventative and recovery phase and became the Chicago Community Health Response Corps. Through a competitive process, CDPH awarded a grant of $19.2 million to The Partnership to serve as the Corps’ lead coordinating organization.

The Response Corps focuses on chronic disease prevention and community health outreach, health literacy, and resource navigation, complementing CDPH’s strategic plan: Healthy Chicago 2025.

The goals of the Response Corps are to:

• Create public health workforce employment and training opportunities for people who live in communities that are most affected by health and economic inequities.
• Increase community members’ connections to and utilization of resources to mitigate the social, economic, and health impacts of the pandemic.
• Equip Chicagoans with health knowledge and resources to achieve their desired health outcomes
• Continue efforts to promote resilience against COVID-19 and other public health threats in high-risk communities

Chicago Community Health Response Corps in yellow vests working in public

11 Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) serve as local employers for the City of Chicago’s Community Health Response Corps, focusing on Chicago’s hardest-hit communities:

November 1,2022 – June 30, 2023
Greater West Town Community Development Project SGA Youth and Family Services AllianceCare 360
Habilitative Systems, Inc. KLEO Community Family Life Center Calumet Area Industrial Commission
Puerto Rican Cultural Center The Resurrection Project Phalanx Family Services
Central States SER Center for New Horizons

Check out The Partnership’s Hire Frequency Podcast Episode, “The Chicago COVID-19 Community Response Corps: A Story of Commitment, Collaboration, and, Most Important of all, Compassion,” that takes a deeper dive into the story behind the Corps. The episode features Partnership COVID-19 Response Project Director Claudia Cattouse-Regalado as she sits down with Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady and Corps Members Cornelius Chandler and Cynthia Rodriguez, to talk about this unique program, in which people are working together to fight an invisible, deadly enemy: COVID-19. A story that is still changing lives every day.

For more information, visit the Chicago Department of Public Health at

Chicago Community Health Response Corps Partners