Illinois formalizes contact tracing program with 2 pilot counties

By Ben Orner Capitol News Illinois

Gov. J.B. Prtizker talks about how the state is going about building up contact tracing of COVID-19 cases during a press briefing from his home Monday, May 18 in Chicago. (Credit:

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday, May 18 announced the launch of Illinois’ statewide contact tracing program for COVID-19 cases in two pilot counties as the state begins to fine-tune its latest weapon to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Contact tracing, which was used early on in the state’s coronavirus outbreak when the number of cases was manageably small, consists of tracers interviewing people who have newly tested positive about who they had significant contact with in the past 48 hours.

Those people, often family, friends or coworkers, are then contacted and encouraged to stay home and practice social distancing for 14 days or get tested.

Pritzker called contact tracing “arguably our most sustainable tool” in further slowing new COVID-19 cases and lifting social and economic restrictions.

 “This straightforward process truly does reduce the number of new infections,” the governor said during his daily briefing from his Chicago home. “And if done at scale, it can be a very effective weapon against COVID-19.”

Contact tracing will be conducted on the local level by Illinois’ 97 county and city health departments, but supported by the Illinois Department of Public Health. The two pilot counties, St. Clair County, outside St. Louis, and Lake County, north of Chicago, will immediately ramp up their contact tracing capabilities for newly-discovered COVID-19 patients.

IDPH Contact Tracing Interest Form

The two counties were chosen “for having significant needs in terms of case numbers in vulnerable populations, a capacity to grow their contact tracing and great existing collaborations of public health personnel, medical students and volunteers already on the ground,” Pritzker said.

The governor said Illinois’ contact tracing program will consist of three parts: a disease reporting software, a common management platform and an app to be used by coronavirus patients and the people they came in contact with.

“The greatest strength of this new, integrated infrastructure that we’re assembling is that it will allow us to reach more people and to do so at a faster pace,” he said.

The state is developing the program with help from the nonprofit Partners In Health, which helped Massachusetts build up its contact tracing. 

The IDPH has received assessments from half of the local health departments regarding their ability to increase tracing. On Monday, IDPH also sent out requests for workplans and budgets so the department can incorporate them into its plan and get a statewide program operational in the coming weeks.

People interested in becoming part of the contact tracing program, including becoming a tracer, should visit IDPH’s website:

IDPH on Monday reported 2,294 new cases of COVID-19, as well as 59 new deaths. The state’s totals now sit at 96,485 cases in 100 of 102 counties, and 4,234 deaths.

There were 21,297 completed tests recorded in Illinois over the past 24 hours, putting the statewide total over 600,000.

As of midnight, 4,120 people were in the hospital with COVID-19. Of them, 1,096 were in an intensive care unit and 636 were on a ventilator.


This story will be updated.