Pritzker promotes contact tracing amid 10,376 new COVID-19 cases; he self-isolates again
Illinois COVID-19 contact tracers are barely reaching half the people who have tested positive for the disease since Aug. 1.
The news comes as Illinois recorded more than 10,000 new cases of COVID-19 in a single day for the first time Friday, raising the statewide rate of positive test results to 9.6%, based on a seven-day average.
Cases for the day totaled 10,376, and another 49 Illinois residents have died from COVID-19. That brings the state's death toll from the respiratory disease to 10,079.
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported that while 57 of the state's 97 local health departments are in contact with 90% of those who have tested positive, Chicago and suburban Cook County contact tracing programs are significantly lagging behind.
"Chicago and Cook County are still ramping up and looking to bring on more people," Pritzker said at a media briefing Friday.
Shortly after the briefing, word came that Pritzker has again been exposed to the virus during a recent meeting at the governor's office. He has been tested and is self-isolating while awaiting results, according to a news release. Results of Pritzker's test will be made available when it is known, officials said.
This is the third time since the outbreak began that the governor has had to quarantine because of an exposure.
Officials also noted that he was following contact-tracing protocols after his exposure.
State officials reported that between Aug. 1 and Oct. 24, Chicago and suburban Cook County have accounted for more than 71,000 new cases, more than a third of the state's total during that time. Contact tracers there attempted to reach only 23,891 of those infected, according to IDPH records. They managed to contact only 15,762, just 22% of those who tested positive.
Statewide, contact tracers have reached less than 54% of those who have tested positive in that time frame, according to IDPH reports.
State health officials have long said a robust contact-tracing program is key to managing outbreaks and limiting exposure to the virus. The goal is to let people know they might have been exposed to COVID-19 and to give them information about quarantining and testing.
"This information, in addition to broader scientific research on COVID-19, not only guides our mitigation efforts but should serve as a resource to residents as they work to keep themselves and their families safe," Pritzker said.
The state is reporting contact-tracing data on a regional basis at its website, dph.illinois.gov/contact-tracing-data. It will be updated weekly, IDPH officials said.
In the suburbs, contact tracers in Region 9 with Lake and McHenry counties are having the best luck, reaching nearly 72% of those infected since the beginning of August. Contact tracers in DuPage and Kane counties' Region 8 reached nearly 71% of those infected, while less than 54% of those who tested positive in Region 7, which contains Will and Kankakee counties, were able to be contacted.
State health officials are urging residents to pick up the phone when they see contact tracers call, which should read "IL COVID HELP." No private information will be divulged, health officials said.
Meanwhile, the state on Friday reported 465,540 "confirmed cases" of the virus in total, a spike of 18,049 cases from the previous day. Illinois Department of Public Health officials said they are now adding the 7,673 "probable cases" since the pandemic began to the total number of cases in the state to follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. But they are not adding the 318 "probable COVID-19 deaths" to the state's fatality figure.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, dispelled rumors that the change was made to increase Medicare payments to hospitals that treated "probable cases."
"If they were symptomatic they would have been treated as a COVID patient, so it wouldn't change the management and would be no different from a confirmed case," she said.
The statewide infection rate continued its climb also, now at 9.6%, based on a seven-day average.
Though the entire state is under some type of mitigation effort, infection rates in every region continue to climb, suggesting more restrictions are on the horizon.
Hospitals around the state added 199 additional COVID-19 patients Thursday, bringing the total number of people hospitalized in Illinois with the virus to 4,090. That's the first time more than 4,000 COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized simultaneously since May 20. Of those hospitalized, 786 are in intensive care. There are 339 COVID-19 patients on ventilators, IDPH officials reported.