Centralization of contact tracing in Illinois begins


LEE COUNTY — Lee County Health Department (LCHD) has tried to keep residents informed throughout this pandemic. We are very proud of our employees’ continued dedication to serving the community during this very difficult time. They have faced adversity and have not always been treated well by members of the public, but remained steadfast in their dedication to do their best amid requirements and guidelines that continually changed, as officials learned more about COVID-19. LCHD  has also received a lot of cooperation, encouragement and support from community members, which has been greatly appreciated. LCHD values the close collaborative working relationships with many partner entities. They will continue to serve our community throughout the pandemic and beyond. Some things will be changing however, including the contact tracing process in Illinois. LCHD is asking  residents to take personal responsibility to do their part in this pandemic that has affected us all.

Case numbers are at an all-time high and are beyond our capacity to address in a timely manner. Effective Jan. 13, contact tracing will be centralized in Illinois.  The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Surge Center (SC) will be handling most cases. Individuals 65 and older will be prioritized as will those at high risk of severe illness. The SC will reach out to these individuals.  Residents who test positive who are not in these groups will receive a text message that  will read:  IDPH COVID: There is important info for you. You will be given an option to call 312/777-1999 or click on a link that provides information about isolation, possible treatments, resources and notification of close contacts. Calling this number is considered “opting in” for an interview and symptom monitoring. LCHD has heard concerns that people aren’t comfortable calling a 312-area code and wonder if it is legit. If you receive a text as described above, it is legitimate. When you call in, please note that these are not LCHD employees. If you will need a return-to-work letter, it is essential that you opt in. This is the only way you will get a return-to-work letter. Please do not call LCHD at the end of your isolation for a letter.  LCHD is unable to provide that and if you did not opt in the SC won’t either. 

Also note, that the state too is overwhelmed with the volume of cases and because high-risk individuals will be prioritized, if you are not in a high-risk group, there is no guarantee you will hear back within your initial 5-day isolation period or be able to get a return-to-work letter. 

Businesses need to be prepared for a possible delay or stoppage of letters-an employee may not have a letter available to present to prove that isolation/quarantine is over. Businesses may want to re-evaluate their protocols in requiring return to work letters.

LCHD will continue to respond to cases in high-risk settings, including congregate care facilities.  They will also have access to Lee County case information so they can identify any potential clusters or outbreaks, and will have the option to request to handle those cases ourselves. In addition to congregate settings, they will continue to have oversight of schools and daycares, including assistance with mitigation strategies and outbreak management.

If you test positive and choose not to opt in to be interviewed through the SC or opt-in but don’t hear from them right away, these guidelines for the general public will help you know what to do:

If you test positive:  

• Self-isolate for 5 days from the day your symptoms began or if no symptoms, the day of your positive test; these days are day 0.

• If after 5 days, you have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medication and your symptoms have resolved, you can leave isolation on day 6.  It is estimated that 20-30% of individuals can be infectious beyond day 5, which is why the masking component of these guidelines is so critical.  Wear a mask around others at home or in public for 5 additional days after isolation.

• If you still have a fever on day 5, continue isolating until it has resolved for at least 24 hours without fever reducing medication.

• Inform close contacts you had up to 2 days prior to symptoms starting, or if no symptoms, 2 days prior to your positive test, so that they can quarantine.

If you have been a close contact:

• If you are a close contact to someone who has tested positive and you are eligible for a booster and have been boosted OR completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna within the past 5 months OR completed the primary J & J vaccine within the last 2 months-wear a mask around others for 10 days.

• If you completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine more than 5 months ago and have not received a booster, OR are unvaccinated-stay home for 5 days.  After that, continue to wear a mask around others for an additional 5 days. 

• If you develop symptoms, immediately quarantine until able to be tested.

In addition to oversight of congregate settings, schools, daycares and clusters or outbreaks, LCHD will continue to keep our community informed of changing guidelines, testing, vaccination and other resources, and to address your calls and concerns as we hear from you.  Even with contact tracing fewer individuals, LCHD  will receive a large volume of calls.  LCHD will get back to you as timely as possible and try to do so in the order calls come in.  They ask for your patience as they may not be able to get back to you as quickly as we’d like. Please do not call because you are unable to get through to the SC; LCHD won’t be able to assist you with that. LCHD cares deeply for our community and will continue to do our best to help keep our residents safe.