State awards new COVID-19 contact tracing contracts

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has activated its Emergency Operations Center to coordinate with the World Health Organization, federal, state and local public health partners, and clinicians in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. | James Gathany/CDC Public Health Image Library

    The state of Michigan has awarded two new contracts worth more than $1 million to Detroit companies in order to expand COVID-19 contact tracing efforts.

    This comes after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer canceled a contract with a Democratic consultant-owned campaign outreach company in April following complaints that a partisan firm would be collecting and monitoring health data. The contract would have been worth almost $200,000, as previously reported by the Advance. Attorney General Dana Nessel is probing the matter.

    After canceling the contract, Whitmer said that contract should have been approved by the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) rather than the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

    A $1 million contract has now been awarded to Rock Connections, LLC, a call center backed by Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, and was chosen through an evaluation team process with representatives from the Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB) and DHHS. 

    Nessel to probe canceled state contract with Dem firm for COVID-19 contact tracing

    Deloitte, a company that provides consulting, accounting, financial advisory and technology services led by David Parent, already had an established integration contract worth $1.3 million with the state for maintenance, support and enhancement of the MIBridges website, according to a document on the state government’s website, but the state got a 10% discount. 

    Both companies were approved through a SEOC review process.

    Rock Connections will oversee more than 3,500 volunteers that will be carrying out contact tracing calls seven days a week for the next six to 12 months to identify people affected by COVID-19 and then asking their friends, families and other close contacts about their symptoms and health.

    During these calls, volunteers will provide information about steps that exposed individuals should take to monitor their health and prevent the spread of COVID-19. They also will log responses to determine if these individuals are symptomatic for COVID-19 and need to be referred to other public health teams for additional follow-up.

    Deloitte is providing technology integration for the contact tracing, which includes an automated text messaging system that individuals can opt-in to following their initial call with a contact tracer.

    Madeline Ciak
    Madeline Ciak is a former Michigan Advance reporter. She’s a University of Michigan-Flint graduate and previously worked as a digital media manager at NBC25/FOX66 in Flint and a weekend producer at ABC12.