Southern Seven Health Department has started the process to move to the Illinois Department of Public Health's new centralized COVID-19 Contact Tracing process that goes into effect Thursday, Jan. 13. As part of that process and the current record breaking caseloads facing our COVID-19 Contact Tracing team, S7HD discontinued its daily reporting of COVID-19 cases on Monday, Jan. 10.
"We're proud that we've been able to keep the residents of our seven counties informed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with local case count information," said Nathan Ryder, Community Outreach Coordinator for S7's COVID-19 response team. He said it has been 650 days, since they were alerted of their first positive case.
"We are one of the last few local health departments in the state still publishing a daily case count," he added.
At the end of December, IDPH informed all local health departments that the state was moving to centralize the COVID-19 contact tracing process. This move will free up overburdened local contact tracers to focus on the most critical cases of COVID-19 in their communities, including seniors, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, and local outbreaks of the virus.
All other cases who choose to participate in the contact tracing process will be handled by IDPH's Surge Center. Individuals who choose to opt-out of contact tracing will receive instructions on how to self-notify their close contacts and how to follow quarantine or isolation guidelines.
"As we transition to the state's centralized contact tracing system, it's going to be harder for us at the local level to maintain the continuity of those daily reports," Ryder said. "Both the state and the CDC now have robust COVID-19 data that is published online frequently and gives users the ability to look at case information on the county level."
Currently, all individuals who take a lab-based COVID-19 test and receive a positive result will be first contacted with a text message from IDPH to the cellphone number they provide as their point of contact.
The new message will display the following text: "IDPH COVID: There is important info for you. Call 312-777-1999 or click https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19/community-guidance/confirmed-or-possible-covid-19.html"
The new text message being sent by IDPH does not confirm your test results or display other sensitive information.
You can also visit the web address included in the message for helpful tips on what to do after receiving a positive COVID-19 test result. It's important to note that if you will need a release letter to return to work, school, or the doctor, you will need to call the number provided to you by IDPH and participate in the contact tracing process.
Individuals who do not have a cellphone number will instead receive a phone call from IDPH's COVID-19 Surge Center. Currently these calls from IDPH originate with a Chicago area code.
Beginning Jan. 13, people will no longer be contacted by a member of S7HD's Contact Tracing Team unless their case is flagged as a high priority. This is due in part to the overwhelming number of new positive cases and the limited staffing and resources available for contact tracing at the local level.
"S7HD will continue to provide release letters for cases that were handled by our tracers prior to the Jan. 13 switch-over," said Ryder. "Beginning on the 13th it's important you call the number listed in that text message from IDPH so you can get your quarantine or isolation release letters. S7HD will no longer generate those letters for you."
S7HD will continue to update its website, Facebook page, podcast, and the media as warranted with important updates related to COVID-19. New case counts and other COVID-related statistics published by IDPH can be viewed at https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19/data.html. The CDC also offers COVID statistics on their data tracker at https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#datatracker-home.
Meanwhile, S7HD encourages all individuals ages 5 and up to get vaccinated against COVID-19. We know COVID-19 vaccines are very effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and the potentially deadly consequences of the virus. Individuals can schedule a vaccine appointment with S7HD by calling (618) 634-2297 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. To find other vaccination locations near you go to www.vaccines.gov. Organizations wanting to host a clinic in their community can apply online at https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19/vaccinationclinics.html.