Local health officials receiving funds for contact tracing

The first batch of local public health agencies has begun receiving state grants to help cover the cost of contact tracing for COVID-19 infections, testing and other expenses as Connecticut begins seeing localized pockets of cases.

The money announced Wednesday is coming from the $20 million the Connecticut Department of Public Health received from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. It will be distributed over three years to local public health departments and districts, which are taking the lead on tracking down new cases. The grant amounts are based on per-capita and poverty levels in the communities.

All local health districts and departments are eligible for the funding, said Dr. Deidre Gifford, acting commissioner at the state's Department of Public Health. Applications from 21 of the state's 65 local health districts and departments have been approved so far.

While local health departments are handling the initial contact tracing calls, Gifford said the state has so far hired 105 full-time contact tracers for a backup system to provide extra surge capacity to the local public health authorities.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said the cooperation between the state and local health officials is “more important than ever as we go from 1% to 2% to 3% positivity. That increases the amount of work we've got to do.”