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Contract tracing underway in Will County

Rex Robinson | 7/22/2020, 11:59 a.m.
The Will County Health Department began ramping up its contact tracing pro-gram for COVID-19 earlier this week utilizing what department ...

The Will County Health Department began ramping up its contact tracing pro-gram for COVID-19 earlier this week utilizing what department officials are calling a “best practice” for tracking communicable diseases.

As part of Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan, health departments must begin contact tracing in 90 percent of new cases within 24 hours, Will County Health Department Director Sue Olenek said.

It takes an average of five to seven days to get results from a COVID test so that 24 hour clock would not start until the result became known.

“Contact tracing is a best practice,” she said. “This is what health de-partments do all the time with other diseases such as STDs and HIV.”

The Health Department received a $4.9 million grant from the Illinois Department of Public Health to hire contact tracers, managers, nurses, and even IT support to ensure that information gathered during the pandemic re-mains confidential.

“Basically we’re gearing up another department,” Olenek said.

Currently, there are 20 contact tracers and the Health Department ex-pects to add about another 20 in the coming weeks. All will be trained to talk to people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 or close contacts of a COVID case about who they have come in contact with and connect them to resources, such as a doctor, a social worker or assistance finding housing, as needed.

Olenek explained that initial calls will be made to clients from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. If the patient needs another time, such as later in the evening, that can be arranged, she said.

What is as important to what the contact tracers will do is what they will not do, according to health department officials.

“There are scams out there,” Olenek warned.

People will not be contacted via email nor is the Health Department us-ing any contact tracing cell phone applications.

County contact tracers will never ask for financial information. If some-one asks for a credit card number or other financial information, the call is from a scammer.

“Financial information has nothing to do with COVID-19,” she said.

“We appreciate the public’s cooperation as we move through this next im-portant phase of our response to COVID-19,” she concluded.