Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Ill., on Monday pressed Gov. J. B. Pritzker to make sure Hispanics who know their communities are part of the army of COVID-19 contact tracers the governor wants to recruit.
Garcia discussed the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Illinois Hispanic population in a conversation on Facebook live conducted in English.
The infections have hit a disproportionate share of Hispanics, and Pritzker highlighted that there are 66 testing sites in Illinois established in areas with a large number of Hispanic residents.
Garcia, the only Hispanic congressman in Illinois, has been scrambling to find state and federal resources to help battle the pandemic with a special focus on immigrants, no matter their legal status.
Pritzker spoke to Garcia after his afternoon briefing, where he spotlighted the state of Illinois efforts to ramp up the hiring of contact tracers. The job of a contact tracer is to patch together the network of people in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 so they can be tested for the disease.
The governor, at his briefing said, “With Illinois’ daily availability of testing among the best in the nation now, we want to grow our voluntary contact tracing so that we can further control and reduce the rate of spread of COVID-19 and stop outbreaks in their tracks.”
Garcia told Pritzker there are a “robust” number of people in Hispanic neighborhoods who have contact tracing skills through their field work in the Census, voter registration and similar jobs.
He asked the governor what his plans were to insure that “Latinos and immigrants are included” in the contact tracer hires.
Pritzker replied that he wanted to “encourage anybody who is listening” to apply for the paid jobs, highlighting there will be a need for Spanish speakers.
Garcia said, “Keep in mind, Governor, there is a body of these folks who are experienced, who people trust and they know how to knock on doors when it is safe to do so.”
Pritzker encouraged people interested in the job to check out how to submit a resume on the Illinois Department of Public Health website at dph.illinois.gov/COVID19.
Hiring will be done by county health departments; the state will act as a clearinghouse for resumes and help pay the salaries.
Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh says the jobs are likely part-time and temporary and will be paid about $15-an-hour. The state will give money to counties for contact tracers based on where there is the most need – the hot spots.