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IL takes over COVID contact tracing for county health departments

With rising cases, Quad Cities area health departments said they're struggling to handle the volume of contact tracing calls.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — Contact tracing responsibility in Illinois is shifting from local health departments to the Illinois Department of Public Health, as counties are struggling to keep up with rising COVID-19 cases. 

Rock Island County Health Department Chief Operating Officer Janet Hill said the department receives hundreds of calls a day in relation to contact tracing. By transferring that responsibility to the state, Rock Island County will have more resources to focus on vaccinating the public as well as other non-COVID-19-related responsibilities. 

If you test positive for COVID-19 at a state-run site, pharmacy or doctor's office, you'll receive a text from the IDPH surge center at 312-777-1999.

"The cases are so high that no health department would be able to adequately contact trace every positive case," Hill said, "So this automated system will at least get people the information that they need when they need it."

After receiving a text message, Hill said it's important to opt in to the questions being asked of you. 

"They will be asking you symptom-based questions and just checking in with you," Hill said.

Depending on your answers, you could receive a release to work or school letter. In some cases, that release letter is what is necessary to be welcomed back to the office or classroom.

Illinois' county health departments will pass along anyone looking for contact tracing information to IDPH. However, the county departments will continue to contact trace certain outbreaks, including those in nursing homes and schools. 

"We're going to continue to educate and answer questions if people call in to us. It's just that we will pass on the bulk of the contact tracing for COVID-19 to the state," Hill said. 

If you complete an at-home COVID-19 test, you will not receive a call or text from the Illinois Health Department. Instead, it's your responsibility to notify close contacts and monitor symptoms.

You can find information on contact tracing procedures from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The Rock Island County Health Department will be holding a Pfizer vaccine clinic for children aged 5-17, including boosters for those 12 and older who qualify, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday, Jan. 15.

All Pfizer appointments for kids at the health department will also now be walk-in. No appointments are necessary.