Contact Tracing

Contact tracing is critical to keeping Illinois healthy and slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Contact tracing provides support that helps protect people and reduce the spread of COVID-19. Trained public health workers are there to answer questions, alleviate concerns, and provide resources to ensure Illinoisans who test positive are safe and taken care of. They also serve as a lifeline to those who may have been exposed by providing helpful information that can protect them and those they care about. By working together, we can make a difference. If you receive a call from IL COVID HELP, answering could save lives.

What is contact tracing?

Contact tracing is a long-established, proven health practice that has helped save countless lives. Public health workers reach out to people who tested positive and their close contacts to provide health guidance, answer questions, and offer support. It helps protect you and those closest to you.

Is contact tracing new?

The Illinois Department of Public Health, as well as health departments around the world, have been using contact tracing successfully for decades to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases, such as Ebola and HIV/AIDS. The COVID-19 pandemic affecting billions worldwide has put this little-known health practice on the global stage.

Who is participating in contact tracing efforts?

All 97 local health departments and several community-based organizations in Illinois are participating.

How does contact tracing work?

Contact tracing involves:

  • Reaching out to people with COVID-19 to identify everyone they had close contact with during the time they may have been infectious
  • Notifying contacts of their potential exposure
  • Referring those contacts for testing
  • Monitoring contacts for signs and symptoms of COVID-19
  • Connecting contacts with services they might need to remain at home during the self-quarantine period

What happens on a contact tracing call?

If you test positive for COVID-19 or were in close contact with someone who did, you’ll get a call from IL COVID HELP. That’s one of the public health workers. Answering is extremely important, as it helps us do contact tracing effectively. During the call, they will:

  • Determine who you’ve had close contact with recently
  • Answer your questions and help alleviate any concerns
  • Offer you additional support and resources

Who is considered a close contact?

A close contact is someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days before getting tested) until the time the patient is isolated.

What should I do if I am contacted or have been in contact with someone exposed to COVID-19?

While you’ll get specific guidance from a public health worker, typically you should get tested and quarantine for up to 14 days. Getting tested is one of the most important steps you can take to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Combined with contact tracing and proper quarantining, testing can help protect you and those closest to you.

In addition, you should check your temperature twice daily and watch for COVID-19 symptoms, such as cough or shortness of breath. If your symptoms worsen or become severe, you should seek immediate medical care. Severe symptoms include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, or bluish lips or face.

What should I do while quarantining for 14 days?

You likely won’t receive your test results right away, but don’t be discouraged. Here are some steps to take in the meantime:

  1. Quarantine at home: Stay home and avoid interacting with other people – both inside and outside your household – for up to 14 days.
  2. Retrace your steps: Recall where you went and who you were in close contact with recently.

A public health worker will follow up in case you test positive to help you take necessary precautions.

What if my test results come back positive?

A positive result can be nerve-wracking, but don’t panic. Around 97% of people who contract coronavirus recover. To keep from passing the virus onto others, take these additional steps.

  1. Isolate yourself: Stay home and away from others for 10 days from when your symptoms first appeared AND after going 24 hours without a fever. Stay in a separate room away from other people and animals if you can.
  2. Help us with contact tracing: Work with one of our public health workers to make a list of your most recent close contacts.

What happens with my information?

Your private health information is secured and always kept completely confidential. No sensitive data like social security numbers is collected. We don’t exchange information with anyone, including law enforcement, credit collection, or immigration agencies. And, your name won’t be revealed to others, even your close contacts.

How much is being spent on this effort and where is the funding going?

Local health departments are receiving approximately $230 million to perform and improve contact tracing and testing efforts.

Community-based organizations are receiving $60 million for resource coordination, community health outreach, and contact tracing support. They are expected to use the funding to employ workers full time, provide health benefits, and pay a living wage.

Where can I find additional support and resources?

If you have any questions about testing, contact tracing, or anything else, please visit the following websites or feel free to call us.

Telehealth coronavirus.illinois.gov/s/telehealth
Child care coronavirus.illinois.gov/s/resources-for-families-and-children
Economic assistance coronavirus.illinois.gov/s/resources-for-economic-assistance
Business resources dceo.illinois.gov | 800-252-2923
Employment security ides.illinois.gov | 800-244-5631
Housing ihda.org | 312-836-5200
Mental health Text TALK or HABLAR to 552020

Download the contact tracing toolkit here.