Illinois' COVID-19 cases surpass 240,000 as counties ramp up contact tracing hires
Cases of COVID-19 increased by 1,360 Thursday -- the lowest count since Aug. 10, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced.
Twenty-five additional people died from the respiratory disease, officials reported.
That brings the caseload in Illinois to 240,003, with deaths totaling 8,115 statewide. On Aug. 10, 1,319 additional virus cases were recorded. The average number of new cases in the last seven days is 1,810.
Suburban counties are in the midst of a hiring blitz for contact tracers, who alert people if they might have been exposed to the virus.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker in May announced the state would provide financial aid to local health departments to hire about 4,000 contact tracers in addition to those already working for state and county health departments.
About $230 million has been allocated to Illinois' 97 local health departments to employ contact tracers.
As of Monday, the Lake County Health Department had filled 63.5 contact tracer positions, or 41% of its 154.5 person target, Communications Manager Hannah Goering said. Funding is being provided through a $4.9 million state grant and partnerships with Lake County Workforce Development and the CDC Foundation.
Contact tracers are key to reducing the spread of COVID-19, officials say, by reaching out to people who tested positive for the virus and finding if they have infected others. They also alert individuals exposed to the virus and provide information about testing and other services.
"Our role is to provide (people) with support," Lake County Health Department contact tracer Kelley Donley said. "To see where they're at in the process, and through the course of the conversation to follow up with them to try to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community."
As of Thursday, the Cook County Department of Public Health had hired about 50 tracers, eight case investigators and two case investigator supervisors, spokeswoman Kimberley Conrad Junius said.
They "will begin training soon after Labor Day," Junius said. "Our hiring goal is to grow our contact tracing team from about 25 to 400 members."
The DuPage County Health Department has hired 110 contact tracers, spokesman Don Bolger said. "Our goal is to hire 195, and we are currently working to hire the remaining 85," he said.
Illinois' seven-day test positivity rate for the virus is 4.4%, according to lab results in the last 24 hours. The daily positivity rate is 3.3%.
Patients in Illinois hospitals with COVID-19 came to 1,620 as of Wednesday night, higher than the seven day average of 1,543.
Deaths in the last 24 hours included a woman and a man in their 60s and a woman in her 80s from Kane County and a woman in her 70s from Lake County. Cook County patients who died are a woman and two men in their 60s, a woman in her 70s, two men in their 80s, and a woman in her 90s.