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Cook County launches COVID-19 text alert system and phone hotline

Officials hope the measures will battle confusion and address growing concern regarding the spread of coronavirus.

Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board President, along with elected and health officials speak to reporters the situation of Illinois amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Monday, March 16, 2020.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced text alerts and a phone hotline for information about the coronavirus.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Cook County launched a text message alert system and phone hotline Thursday in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Anyone who wants to opt in to receive text message alerts from county health officials should text alertcook to 888-777.

Those who opt in will receive a confirmation text that reads “Welcome to Alert Cook County. Thank you for signing up.”

“The importance of quick, accurate and trustworthy information cannot be overstated,” Preckwinkle said Thursday morning, noting it’s important to offer county residents a trusted voice to combat misinformation.

A phone hotline also went live Thursday. Anyone who wants to ask health professionals questions related to COVID-19 should call 708-633-3319. The hotline will be staffed 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

If overwhelmed by callers, folks will be encouraged to leave a message and expect a return call.

An email account — ccdph.covid19@cookcountyhhs.org — has also been set up for residents to send inquiries related to COVID-19. The questions will be answered, as much as possible, in return emails.

“This has truly been a rapidly evolving situation for all of us, with all the recent closings and cancellations of school and work, there has understandably been a lot of confusion and people have a lot of questions and concerns about what to do to protect themselves and their families,” said Dr. Terry Mason, chief operating officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health.

“As we have begun to see signs of community spread in our area, we began to see a spike in calls [from the public] that necessitated mobilizing a team to respond to the increasing demand,” he said.

Mason said Cook County, including Chicago, has recorded 178 coronavirus cases; 79 cases are in suburban Cook County.