In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Lake County Health Department uses contact tracing to identify and notify people who may have been exposed. If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, we will call you and ask you to self-quarantine at home for 14 days from the day that you were exposed. Help us slow transmission and answer the call to slow the spread. Making a choice to help us in the fight against COVID-19 keeps you, your family, and your community safe.
Contact Tracing Process
- The Health Department reaches out to people who test positive for COVID-19 and those who have been in close contact with a confirmed case. Contact tracers first try to reach you via the phone, then via text message. The Health Department will only leave messages asking you to call back at (312) 777-1999.
- Contact tracers interview people who test positive for COVID-19 over the phone, help them recall where they have been and who they have seen while infectious, and give guidance and support so you can take steps to protect others. Time is crucial in the process, because a person may spread COVID-19 to others before they know they are infected. The interview is voluntary, and you may choose what information you share.
- Contact tracers notify the COVID-19 case’s close contacts about their possible exposure. They do not disclose the name or any other personal details of the COVID-19 case to the contacts.
- After speaking with a contact tracer, people who need to self-quarantine will be asked to log their symptoms each day using new contact tracing software implemented by the State of Illinois. These daily messages will be sent via email or text messages.
On May 18, 2020, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced the Illinois Contact Tracing Collaborative, a locally-driven approach to scale up contact tracing in Illinois. The Lake County Health Department was among two local health departments in the state chosen to pilot the program for having significant needs regarding case numbers in vulnerable populations, a robust capacity to scale up contact tracing efforts, and great existing collaborations of public health personnel, medical students, and volunteers already on the ground.
Through this new partnership, the Lake County Health Department is hiring additional contact tracers with funding provided by IDPH through Federal CARES money. If you are interested in applying for a position to help with our contact tracing efforts, please visit our Careers page.
If you have questions about the contact tracing program, please call the IDPH hotline at 1-800-889-3931 or email DPH.SICK@ILLINOIS.GOV.
Beware of Contact Tracing Scams
Lake County officials are warning residents of contact tracing scams where criminals pretend to be contact tracers to steal vital information like social security numbers and banking information over the phone, via email, and text message.
A contact tracer will never:
- Ask for your Social Security number;
- Ask for money, bank account or credit card numbers, or any other form of payment;
- Ask for your immigration status; or
- Threaten consequences of not participating or answering questions.
If you receive a suspicious call, text message, or email about contact tracing or exposure to COVID-19, you may call the Health Department’s Communicable Disease program at (847) 377-8130. Staff can help verify if you have been contacted by the Health Department.
If you believe you have been a victim of a contact tracing scam, please call the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office at (847) 377-3000, or your local police department.
- Federal Trade Commission: Coronavirus Advice for Consumers
- Press Release: Lake County Officials Warn of Contact Tracing Scams
Frequently Asked Questions
What is contact tracing?
Contact tracing is a key strategy to prevent further spread of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases.
First, a public health staff member reaches out to a person who tested positive for COVID-19 to provide education, information, and support. During the interview, the staff member helps the infected person recall where they have been and who they have seen while infected. Then the staff member reaches out to these contacts to inform them that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and to provide guidance to prevent further spread of the virus.
What is the benefit of contact tracing?
Contact tracing is a proven method of reducing the spread of communicable diseases. Time is crucial, because a person can spread diseases before they know they are infected. If we can quickly notify people who may have been exposed to COVID-19, they can take steps to protect others. By expanding contact tracing, we can reduce the number of people who are unknowingly passing on COVID-19 to loved ones.
How does the Lake County Health Department know someone was diagnosed with COVID-19?
When people in Illinois are diagnosed with certain conditions, like COVID-19, the law requires labs and doctors to notify the local health jurisdiction. The type of follow-up is based on the disease, but in all cases, local or state public health professionals reach out to the ill person to talk about how they may have been exposed. They also share information to help prevent the spread of disease.
Are people required to complete an interview?
No. Contact tracing is voluntary and you can choose what information you share. However, your cooperation in the process is one of the most effective ways we can help stop the spread of COVID-19.
What questions are asked?
Public health staff members ask about the following during a case investigation:
- Symptoms and when they started
- Medical and travel history
- Others living in your home
- Where you have been and who you have seen while infectious
- Date of birth
- Race and ethnicity
Staff members also help answer questions and help connect the infected person with local resources as needed.
Public health will never ask for or record immigration status, social security number, financial information, or marital status.
Are people required to answer every question?
No. However, the more information a person provides, the more public health staff can help keep your loved ones and others in the community safe. Please note that some questions are required, including the date a person first began to feel symptoms of COVID-19.
Will my personal information be shared with the people I had close contact with?
No. Your name and other identifiable information will not be shared with your contacts when they are notified about the possible exposure.
What are contacts asked to do?
Contacts are asked to self-quarantine. This means staying home, separating themselves from others, and monitoring for symptoms until 14 days after their last exposure. Contacts may also be asked to get tested for COVID-19.
How will the information collected be used?
The information is stored in a secure database. Public health staff members utilize this information to notify the infected person’s close contacts of their possible exposure. Staff members can also utilize the information to identify outbreaks in common places of exposure.
How is my personal information protected?
The information is stored securely and can only be accessed by people supporting this public health work. Volunteers and employees who do this work are carefully screened and sign strict confidentiality agreements.
Who can access the information that is collected?
The information is stored in secure databases with multi-factor authentication and can only be accessed by people who are supporting this public health function. Volunteers and employees who do this work are carefully screened and sign strict confidentiality agreements.
Myth vs. Fact
MYTH: Contact tracing is a new practice for the COVID-19 pandemic
FACT: Contact tracing is a widely used public health practice. It has been used for many years to help stop the spread of infectious diseases. In fact, if you have ever had a child at school with an outbreak of lice, strep throat, or pertussis, you have probably encountered a small-scale version of contact tracing. The goal of contact tracing is to be able to notify and educate people who may have been exposed so they can keep their families and communities healthy and safe.
MYTH: Contact tracing is mandatory
FACT: Contact tracing is a voluntary practice and you can choose what information you share. However, your cooperation in the process is one of the most effective ways we can help stop the spread of COVID-19.
MYTH: Contact tracing will expose my personal information
FACT: Any information shared with a contact tracer is kept confidential. By providing information on your symptoms and when they started, where you have been and who you have seen, public health staff can help you know how to protect your loved ones and also help others protect themselves. Your personal information is not shared with contacts when they are notified that they may have been exposed.
MYTH: Contact tracing won’t make a difference
FACT: Contact tracing is vital in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases. Time is crucial in contact tracing. As more people come in contact with the infected person, the risk of spread increases. By expanding contact tracing, we can reduce the number of people who are unknowingly passing on COVID-19 to others.