Pritzker wants to double contact tracing efforts in state

Pritzker wants to double contact tracing efforts in state

Gov. JB Pritzker said Monday that he wants to inject new resources into local health departments to help double the amount of contact tracing for COVID-19.

He said local health departments have been following up on positive tests since the pandemic began, but many were overwhelmed once the number of cases started escalating.

Pritzker said health departments are contact tracing less than one-third of positive cases. He wants to bump that up to at least 60 percent, which he said is considered the industry standard.

“Given the sheer scale of our population’s widespread susceptibility to COVID-19, we can’t get there with our existing infrastructure alone,” Pritzker said Monday on a call with reporters.

The state will direct federal money to health departments that need help hiring staff. It’s also building a uniform platform for local departments to report their findings and will encourage positive residents and their contacts to download a contact tracing app.

Pritzker said the state launched pilot initiatives in St. Clair and Lake counties, which were prioritized because of their high case counts among vulnerable populations, their capacity for tracing and because of their existing partnerships with public health.

The state plans to add other groups soon, including Chicago’s health department, Pritzker said.

Dr. Wayne Duffus, the state’s contact tracing coordinator, said they sent surveys to all 97 local health departments to get a better understanding of their resources and have so far heard back from more than half.

“The local health departments have been working on contact tracing since the beginning,” he said. “And they do have resources they gear towards contact tracing. But they have been overextended because of the volume of cases and it’s hard for them to keep up.”

Additionally, Pritzker said the state has hired Partners in Health to help advise on the state’s plan. The Boston-based global nonprofit took a lead role in boosting contact tracing efforts in Massachusetts.

State officials announced 2,294 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, bringing the total to 96,485 positive tests in 100 counties. The death toll increased to 4,234 after 59 more deaths.

Labs in the state reported 21,297 specimens over the last 24 hours.

Public health director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said there are currently 4,120 COVID-19 patients in Illinois hospitals. About one-quarter of the patients are in an intensive care unit and 636 are on ventilators.

Meanwhile, Pritzker defended an emergency rule filed Friday allowing law enforcement to charge businesses who violate the state’s stay at home order with a misdemeanor.

State Republicans blasted the rule over the weekend, calling it an overreach and questioning whether it would stand up in court.

Pritzker said most businesses are abiding by the order. For the few that aren’t, this gives law enforcement another tool, he said. He said Monday afternoon that he was unaware of any citations that had been issued.

“We don’t want to have to pull licenses for people. We don’t want to have to shut a business down,” he said. “What we really want is for people to comply and we wanted to give them this type of citation as an alternative.”


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