Daily Journal

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the launch of Illinois’ contact tracing program during a Monday press briefing.

The contact-tracing effort for COVID-19 — one that is required to move the state along the governor’s “Restore Illinois” reopening plan — will begin in two pilot counties.

Pritzker said contact tracing, which was used early on in the state’s coronavirus outbreak when the number of cases was manageably small, consists of tracers interviewing people who have newly tested positive about who they had significant contact with in the past 48 hours.

Those people, often family, friends or coworkers, are then contacted and encouraged to stay home and practice social distancing for 14 days or get tested.

Pritzker called contact tracing “arguably our most sustainable tool” in further slowing new COVID-19 cases and lifting social and economic restrictions.

“This straightforward process truly does reduce the number of new infections,” the governor said during his daily briefing from his Chicago home. “And if done at scale, it can be a very effective weapon against COVID-19.”

Contact tracing will be conducted on the local level by Illinois’ 97 county and city health departments, but supported by the Illinois Department of Public Health. The two pilot counties, St. Clair County, outside St. Louis, and Lake County, north of Chicago, will immediately ramp up their contact tracing capabilities for newly discovered COVID-19 patients.

The two counties were chosen “for having significant needs in terms of case numbers in vulnerable populations, a capacity to grow their contact tracing and great existing collaborations of public health personnel, medical students and volunteers already on the ground,” Pritzker said.

The governor said Illinois’ contact tracing program will consist of three parts: a disease reporting software, a common management platform and an app to be used by coronavirus patients and the people they came in contact with.

“The greatest strength of this new, integrated infrastructure that we’re assembling is that it will allow us to reach more people and to do so at a faster pace,” he said.

The state is developing the program with help from the nonprofit Partners In Health, which helped Massachusetts build up its contact tracing.

The IDPH has received assessments from half of the local health departments regarding their ability to increase tracing. On Monday, IDPH also sent out requests for work plans and budgets so the department can incorporate them into its plan and get a statewide program operational in the coming weeks.

People interested in becoming part of the contact tracing program, including becoming a tracer, should visit IDPH’s website, dph.illinois.gov.

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