IT centralizes contact tracing with an SMS alert system | Top stories

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) – The State of Illinois is centralizing COVID-19 contact tracing efforts with a new SMS alert system.

Starting Tuesday, all positive tests that enter state data systems and are associated with a cell phone number will receive an automated text message from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Leaders said the initial outgoing text would look like this:

IDPH COVID: There is important information for you. Call 312-777-1999 or click:

Leaders said the goal of the change is “to gain information on isolation and identify close contacts of infected people as soon as possible during times of increasing cases.” They also hope to ease the burden on local health services.

“Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, as does the virus,” said IDPH Director Dr Ngozi Ezike. “We are seeing a higher number of new infections every day than we have seen at any time throughout the pandemic. In an effort to reduce the burden on local state health departments, the state will notify cases by text message regarding interview with a contact tracer, as well as provide a link to guidance on quarantine, possible treatments and notification of close contacts. There have been scams associated with COVID-19 and contact tracing, so I want people to know that IDPH COVID will be texting newly identified cases.

Individuals who call the number provided in the text message will be deemed to be “committing” to an interview. IDPH plans to prioritize case investigation for people 65 and older and those at higher risk of serious illness, in line with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This population will receive an additional SMS if the person does not respond to the initial message.

“While most confirmed cases will be traced through the State Contact Tracing Surge Center, local health departments will continue to respond to cases in high-risk settings, including congregate settings,” reads a press release from the State Contact Tracing Surge Center. IDPH. “Local health departments will also be able to view case details to identify potential clusters or outbreaks and may request that such cases be transferred from the surge center for further contact tracing. Additionally, health departments Locals will continue to monitor schools, daycares and gathering places, including assisting with mitigation strategies and outbreak management.”

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