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Coronavirus In Chicago: Contact Tracing Is Ramping Up

Officials have said contact tracing will be an important part of slowing the spread of COVID-19 here.

Two pedestrians walk in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on Monday, April 27, 2020. Starting May 1, All Illinois residents are required to wear face masks in public. | Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot will explain Tuesday how Chicago is using contact tracing to battle the coronavirus.

Lightfoot and Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, have previously said contact tracing will be an important part of the city’s efforts to decrease cases of COVID-19 here. During a Tuesday press conference, they’ll reveal details about just how they’re ramping up contact tracing.

Contact tracing is a process wherein researchers talk to people with confirmed cases of coronavirus and find out with whom they might have been in contact. Researchers then reach out to those contacts, providing them with information about symptoms of COVID-19 and talking to them about how to safely isolate. Ultimately, the measure can slow the spread of coronavirus cases.

Health departments, including Chicago’s, routinely do contact tracing and have done it during the pandemic. But officials have said the virus spread so quickly it overwhelmed usual contact tracing efforts, which is why Chicago and Illinois have raced to increase their resources.

Gov. JB Pritzker has said Illinois will need a team of about 3,800 contact tracers. Those who are interested in applying can fill out a form online.

Contact tracers will work within local health departments like Chicago’s.

The researchers will call, text and, if necessary, visit the homes of people who were in contact with a coronavirus patient so they can talk to them about looking out for symptoms of the virus and self-isolating.

Researchers will work with a team that will help people who need to isolate get help with food and other needs.

Lightfoot’s press conference is at 1 p.m. Pritzker has his daily coronavirus briefing at 2:30 p.m.

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 112,017 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Monday afternoon. Many of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• At least 4,884 people have died in Illinois as a result of the virus.

• There have been 42,419 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago and at least 1,940 people have died as of Sunday.

If You Need Help

• Sick? Broke? Want To Help? Here’s A Massive List Of Coronavirus Resources In Chicago

What’s Happening In Chicago

Reopening Businesses: The state has released its guidelines for how businesses can safely reopen during Phase 3.

• Child Care: The state is now allowing child care centers to reopen during Phase 3, though with capacity limits. Day camps will be allowed to reopen, too, though they also face restrictions.

Phase 3: Chicago is not yet ready to progress to the next stage in the state reopening plan, Lightfoot said.

But here’s what will reopen in the city when it moves into Phase 3, hopefully in early June, Lightfoot said.

• Mental Health: Lightfoot urged Chicagoans to embrace their feelings and find ways to care for themselves, saying she’s allowed herself to cry during the pandemic.

• “We’re Not Them”: Lightfoot said Chicago won’t rush to reopen like Florida and Georgia and will instead focus on saving lives.

• Churches: At least three Chicago churches were cited for holding in-person services during the stay at home order. The city has ordered them to stop hosting in-person services.

• Patio Season: Restaurants and bars can offer outdoor seating starting May 29 as officials try to save the industry. But Lightfoot said that won’t be the case in Chicago.

• Unemployment: A staggering 1 million people are out of work in Illinois, according to newly released data.

• Phase 3: Here’s what to expect when the state moves into Phase 3 starting May 29.

• Salons: Barber shops and salons are preparing to reopen with new safety measures.

 Small Gyms: Workout reservations and temperature checks could be on the docket as small gym owners get ready to safely reopen.

• Contact Tracing: Pritzker is ramping up the tracing program that intends to isolate every person known to be in recent contact with someone who has newly confirmed case.

• Masks: Two local designers have switched from high fashion to protective masks as part of the city’s effort to provide 1 million reusable cloth masks to Chicagoans.

• Domestic Violence: Demand is spiking at domestic violence shelters, but they’re losing beds for social distancing.

• Undercounting Deaths: The number of COVID-19 deaths in Illinois is likely higher than what’s been reported, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

• Food Delivery: Services like Grubhub and DoorDash will soon have to tell customers just how much they’re charging restaurants for delivering food. The city is pushing for more transparency from the services as restaurants struggle during the pandemic.

 Masks: Everyone is now required to wear a face covering or mask when unable to social distance. And yes, stores can require you to wear a face covering if you want to shop.

Here’s what you need to know about the requirement.

• Testing: Officials are now saying anyone with coronavirus symptoms can get tested in Illinois. Before, they’d advised most people to simply stay at home and assume they had coronavirus.

Here’s where you can get tested in Chicago.


Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. People with no symptoms may have the virus and spread it to others.

The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The most common symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chills and shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of taste and/or smell

People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion and runny nose, according to Harvard Medical School.

If you or someone else has difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, become confused, cannot be roused or develop a bluish face or lips, get immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.

How To Protect Yourself

Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:

  • The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you have to sneeze or cough with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.

What To Do If You Think You’re Sick

Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.

If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where COVID-19 is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus. Anyone who feels unwell has been ordered to stay home or risk getting a $500 fine.

Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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