The Illinois Department of Public Health says that it will no longer conduct contact tracing via phone calls to individuals who test positive for COVID-19, and will instead use automated case notifications via SMS text message starting next month.
Beginning on June 1, IDPH officials say that they will no longer make case investigation phone calls to individuals who test positive for COVID-19, and that the contact tracing call center that had been established during the pandemic will cease operations.
Instead, those individuals will receive automated text messages to their mobile devices.
The messages, which will go out to individuals whose cases are reported to the “Illinois National Electronic Disease Surveillance System,” will direct callers to resources through automated voice prompts in English, Polish and Spanish, according to a press release.
The message will read:
“IDPH has important info for you: Call 312-777-1999 or visit dph.illinois.gov/covidhelp?ch=sms Llame al 312-777-1999 o visite dph.illinois.gov/covidhelp?ch=sms”
Individuals who receive the messages will be given the opportunity to call an automated information line, or to visit the website link in the message to get additional guidance on isolation, notification of close contacts, and the availability of resources.
The previous system had involved call-back options from contact tracers, and individual case investigations for persons age 65 and older.
According to the state’s COVID website, patients are encouraged to self-notify those they’ve come in contact with in the preceding 48 hours before their COVID diagnosis.
The state says it is making the change because of the widespread availability of COVID vaccines and at-home testing kits. It says that many other states have already stopped universal case investigations and contact tracing, which Illinois officials say is being done in accordance with new CDC contact tracing guidelines.
Officials say that contact tracing will continue in cases that occur in congregate facilities.