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Interim Roadmap for Contact Tracing Prioritization

Background

Over the past couple of years, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has worked side-by-side with local health departments (LHDs) in the fight against COVID-19. Recognizing the need to significantly increase contact tracing capacity, IDPH provided LHDs with additional funding from the federal

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to conduct disease and contact investigations, and daily symptom monitoring for those in isolation and quarantine. IDPH also hired an auxiliary contact tracing workforce to provide LHDs with surge and supplemental support.

Systematic testing, contact tracing, and supported isolation and quarantine remain cornerstones of an effective public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Performing contact tracing as soon as possible after symptom onset increases its effectivity. However, immediate contact tracing measures are often less feasible when hundreds or thousands of community cases are identified each day. It is critical that efforts to contact trace reflect a wholistic understanding of community challenges. Such efforts may require a more targeted approach in which the emphasis is placed upon priority cases and settings where there are high levels of community transmission.

On October 14, 2021, the Division of Contact Tracing, Office of Disease Control, presented this Interim Roadmap for Contact Tracing Prioritization describing a focus on high-risk populations during periods of substantial and high virus transmission. Since that point, IDPH continues to identify opportunities for focused efficacy on populations at the highest risk. 

On December 28, 2021, IDPH initiated the automated process of notifying all positive cases and giving relevant guidance on isolation, notifying close contacts, and resource coordination, if required, through a text message alerting them of an important message from IDPH. 

In January 2022, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), IDPH prioritized the cases in age 65 and older and cases who are part of a congregate setting as its most vulnerable population bracket.

The above strategies align IDPH with the recent CDC recommendations in Prioritizing Case Investigation and Contact Tracing for COVID-19 | CDC, which urges a refocus of public health efforts and resources on targeting case investigation for high-risk settings serving vulnerable populations. IDPH would continue to prioritize case investigations for ages 65 and older, cases from congregate facilities, and case notification by short message service (SMS) for all cases.

IDPH would continue its CI/CT operations as stated below:

  1. All confirmed or possible cases reported in the Illinois National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (I-NEDSS) would get an automated message through the contact tracing salesforce platform that reads: “IDPH COVID: There is important info for you. Call 312-777-1999 or https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19/community-guidance/confirmed-or-possiblecovid-19.html?ch=sms.
  2. Via the automated text message, confirmed/probable cases entered in I-NEDSS will have an opportunity to call back for an interview and/or click the website that has guidance, if needed, on isolation, close contact notification, and availability of resources. Those who call the number will be considered as having “opted in” for an interview.  
  3. Through an automated address matching process, cases that match a congregate facility address would be routed to the local health departments for case investigations and outbreak mitigation.
  4. Local health departments will continue their COVID-19 oversight of schools, day care centers, and congregate settings responses, and provide assistance with mitigation strategies and outbreak management. 
  5. The surge center would be responsible for case investigation for individuals ages 65 and older who are not matched with a congregate care facility as the population with the highest risk at this time, per CDC recommendations https://www.cdc.gov/aging/covid19/covid19-older-adults.html.
  6. The surge center would send an additional message to cases age 65 and older who are unresponsive to call attempts to link them to treatment. “IDPH RETRY: Call 312-777-1999. More information on treatments at: https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19/community-guidance/covid19treatment.html?ch=sms"

IDPH will continue to collaborate in implementing strategies that are efficient with focused efficacy and most impactful in high-risk populations in its COVID-19 mitigations. 

IDPH will continue to monitor the impact of these efforts and to develop iterative solutions based on ongoing impact analysis.