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Interim Roadmap for Contact Tracing Prioritization

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, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) provided local health departments (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 (the surge center) to provide surge and supplemental support to LHDs.

Universal contact tracing and individual COVID-19 case investigations were implemented in 2020 as a tool to slow transmissions, however, the high volume of reported cases and the reduced participation of cases and their close contact in case investigation and contact tracing has necessitated a review and change of strategies.

On October 14, 2021, IDPH presented an Interim Roadmap for Contact Tracing Prioritization describing a focus on high-risk populations during periods of substantial and high virus transmission. Since then, IDPH continued to identify opportunities and to recommend focused efficacy on populations at the highest risk and away from universal contact tracing. 

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, IDPH commenced prioritization of case investigations for its priority population (ages 65 and older) and identified cases from congregate facilities for LHD prioritization through an automated matching system.  This was in addition to case notification by short message service (SMS) for all cases.

Effective June 1, 2022, IDPH will be moving to confirmed/probable case notification ONLY across the state.

IDPH will no longer make individual case investigation calls but will continue case notification for all confirmed/probable COVID-19 cases via SMS in conjunction with a new automated call-in option. This new contact tracing process will not impact investigations of cases in congregate facilities and focused interventions, which remain a top priority for local health departments and IDPH.

The new automated call-in option phone number will be deployed via SMS and will direct callers to available resources via automated voice prompts.

The above strategies align IDPH with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations in Prioritizing Case Investigation and Contact Tracing (CICT) 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. As detailed by CDC, this change came about because universal CICT impact is now influenced by many factors, including the high level of infection- or vaccine-induced immunity; availability of safe and effective vaccines and other proven tools to prevent transmission and mitigate illness; decreased participation of people with COVID-19 and their close contacts in CICT activities; increased use of self-tests, which allow people with COVID-19 to quickly notify their own close contacts (positive self-test results may also not be reported to health departments); emergence of variants with shorter incubation periods and rapid transmission; significant numbers of asymptomatic or mild cases of COVID-19; and a high volume of reported cases.

IDPH will continue its recommended COVID-19 CICT response operations as stated below:

All confirmed or possible cases reported in the Illinois National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (I-NEDSS) will get an automated message in English, Spanish, and Polish through the contact tracing salesforce platform which reads:
“IDPH has important info for you: Call 312-777-1999 or visit dph.illinois.gov/covidhelp?ch=sms
Llame al 312-777-1999 o visite dph.illinois.gov/covidhelp?ch=sms

In addition to the enhanced text message confirmed cases will receive, the Centralization Contact Tracing phone number (312-777-1999) will have an updated recorded message to guide individuals to their relevant information. This number will no longer accept and route inbound calls to LHDs. LHDs that utilize this number as their primary line are encouraged to share an alternative landline number to residents.

The automated message will begin by asking people for language selection, asking “Press 1 for English, 2 for Spanish, and 3 for Polish” in their respective languages. The rest of the message will then sound as follows:

Initial Menu

English

  • For information on treatments, please press 1.
  • For information regarding vaccines, please press 2.
  • For information regarding testing for COVID-19, please press 3.
  • For information on school guidance, please press 4.
  • To hear the prompts again, please press 5.

Spanish

  • Para información sobre tratamientos, marque 1.
  • Para información sobre vacunas, marque 2.
  • Para información sobre las pruebas de COVID-19, marque 3.
  • Para información sobre orientación escolar, marque 4.
  • Para volver a escuchar las indicaciones, marque 5.

Polish

  • Aby uzyskać informacje na temat leczenia, naciśnij 1.
  • Aby uzyskać informacje na temat szczepionek, naciśnij 2.
  • Aby uzyskać informacje dotyczące testów na obecność COVID-19, naciśnij 3.
  • Aby uzyskać informacje na temat poradnictwa szkolnego, naciśnij 4.
  • Aby ponownie usłyszeć komunikaty, naciśnij 5.

Canned responses based on menu selection

  1. For treatment information, please go to www.dph.illinois.gov/treatment.
  2. For vaccine information, please go to www.dph.illinois.gov/vaccine.
  3. For testing information, please go to www.dph.illinois.gov/testing.
  4. For information on school guidance, please go to www.dph.illinois.gov/youth-school.

Through an automated address matching process, all cases that match a congregate facility address will still be routed to local health departments for case investigations and outbreak mitigation.

Local health departments will continue COVID-19 oversight of schools, day care centers, and congregate settings responses, including assistance with mitigation strategies and outbreak management.

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

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