The Illinois Department of Public Health has released COVID-19 contact tracing data related to outbreaks and exposure locations as well as school-level data showing 10 schools across the state are experiencing outbreaks as of Friday (Nov. 6, 2020).
According to a Friday IDPH news release, the reported outbreaks do not include secondary cases that may occur in a household member who has not been in school grounds. But the data does include people who associated with a COVID-positive student or staff during before and after school programs, such as sports.
Visit the homepage of the Kane County Health Department website for the weekly status report on contact tracing efforts. As of Friday, the Health Department has made 17,742 calls this month and 91% of the cases and contacts received were contacted within 24 hours.
57 of 97 Local Health Departments Doing Contact Tracing
The statewide data represents all data submitted to the IDPH by the 97 certified local health departments statewide that are responsible for leading contact tracing in their counties and cities.
As of late October, 57 of the 97 local health departments are reaching out to more than 90 percent of cases and 86 of the 97 are reaching out to 75 percent or more.
All school-related data will be updated on a weekly basis.
Gov. JB Pritzker said contact tracing will guide the state’s mitigation efforts and serve as a resource to residents as they work to keep themselves and their families safe.
IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said public health officials are working with millions of COVID-19-related data points every day.
“Contact tracing needs during this pandemic are on the order of nothing we’ve ever seen before, and it is an all hands-on-deck effort with local health departments and community-based organizations,” she said. “We want to share this data and what it means in a responsible and educative way to help the public make informed decisions.”
Beginning in July, IDPH has awarded $237 million in grants to Illinois’ 97 certified local health departments to increase contact tracing efforts, including hiring staff, to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The localized approach to contact tracing ensures that health care staff are reaching out to members of their own communities, helping to build trust and better engagement with the program.
Contact Tracing Metrics
The state continues to work with local health departments across the state to assist them in building out their contact tracing efforts and expects contact tracing data reporting to improve as local health departments continue implementation of new technology.
Most local health departments — including Kane County — are contacting greater than 90 percent of cases in their jurisdictions.
One of the challenges with contact tracing is the public’s reluctance to answer a phone call from a number they don’t recognize.
To make it easier for Illinois residents to identify when a contact tracer is attempting to make contact with them, all calls made by contact tracers have the caller ID “IL COVID HELP.”
Since this change took effect on Thursday, Oct. 29, answer rates for both calls to confirmed cases and close contacts have started to improve.
The data available on the IDPH website is representative of information collected by local health departments from their contact tracers. Local health departments are continuing to build out their operations. Metrics are available by region and by local health department as well.
Exposure And Outbreak Data
Beginning Friday, the state will publish data representing outbreaks and exposure locations for cases of COVID-19 in a variety of setting types, to be updated on a weekly basis.
The location of an outbreak is more difficult to identify than the location of an exposure. In this first batch of released data, an outbreak is defined as five or more cases that are linked to a specific setting during a 14-day period.
Linked cases must be from different households and not already connected from other sources. While certain settings like a college campus, a factory, or group home make it easier to determine an outbreak, most establishments that are frequented by the public, like restaurants or grocery stores, are harder to determine as the setting of an outbreak.
Exposure data is gathered by contact tracers who ask individuals to recall places and businesses they visited in the 14 days preceding the onset of their symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test.
Most individuals will have more than one potential exposure location. Exposure data provides Illinois residents with information regarding where they are at the greatest risk for catching COVID-19.
In Illinois, the largest single category of exposure statewide is restaurants and bars, a trend that is broadly consistent across state regions. Workplaces and schools are also high on the list of Illinois exposure locations due to the sheer number of people who report to an office or attend in-person learning.
The state is now making school specific data collected from contact tracing efforts publicly available online.
The data is broken down by individual schools, counties and three age groups: 5-11 years, 12-17 years, and 18-22 years. State-level data is not all inclusive as it is limited to outbreaks reported by local health departments and exposure data collected through contact tracing.
Individual schools and local health departments remain the most accurate and immediate source of data, which will then get reported by local health departments to IDPH. School districts are required to notify guardians of potential exposure to COVID-19.
To prevent the further spread of COVID-19, Illinois residents over the age of 2 years are required to wear a face covering when out in public and social distancing is not easily achievable.
Anyone exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or who may have been in contact with someone exhibiting symptoms or who has tested positive for the virus should seek out testing and isolate at home.
SOURCE: IDPH news release