Southern Seven Health Department is changing its COVID-19 Contact Tracing process as launched by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

All individuals who take a lab-based COVID test and receive a positive result will be first contacted with a text message to the cell phone number they provide as their point of contact. This text message initializing the contact tracing process is part of a broader change IDPH is scheduled to implement by mid-January.

“We’re still waiting on final details of how the state’s new contact tracing process is going to work,” said Nathan Ryder, Southern Seven’s community outreach coordinator. “For now, we know that IDPH is hoping to make the contact tracing process more centralized so our team members can spend more time focusing on outbreaks and other COVID-19 critical care situations that may occur across our seven-county region. We believe this is all part of the process to wind down the pandemic response and move to an endemic-type response.”

The new text message will display the following information: “IDPH COVID: There is important info for you. Call 312-777-1999 or click: https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19/community-guidance/confirmed -or-possible-covid-19.html.”

“The new text message being sent by IDPH does not confirm your test results or display other sensitive information,” Ryder explained. “You can opt to call IDPH at the number listed in the message or wait to be contacted by a member of Southern Seven’s contact tracing team. You can also visit the web address included in the message for helpful tips on what to do after receiving a positive COVID-19 test result.

In the meantime, Southern Seven encourages all individuals ages 5 and up to get vaccinated against COVID.

“We know COVID-19 vaccines are very effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and the potentially deadly consequences of the virus,” Ryder said.

Vaccine appointments with Southern Seven can be made by calling 618-634-2297 between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. To find other vaccination locations near you, visit ww.vaccines.gov. Organizations wanting to host a clinic in their community can apply online at https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19/vaccinationclinics.html.

As of Tuesday, Massac County has had 2677 cumulative COVID cases since the pandemic began in the region in April 2020. Of those, 2496 have recovered and 123 are active. There have been 56 deaths reported in Massac County.

From Dec. 29, 2021, through Jan 4, 2022, Southern Seven reported 90 new cases of COVID in Massac County — six in less than 10-years-old; 13 teenagers; 10 in their 20s; 13 in their 30s; 15 in their 40s; 15 in their 50s; 12 in their 60s; three in their 70s; and three in their 80s or above.

As of Tuesday, 12,200 Massac Countians have received the vaccine since it became available in December 2020. Of that number, 5076 have been fully vaccinated — meaning 36.05% of the county’s population has been fully vaccinated.

From Dec. 29, 2021, through Jan 4, 2022, Southern Seven reported 465 new cases of COVID and 300 recoveries in the region. There have been 12,772 cumulative cases in the Southern Seven region since the pandemic began in the region in April 2020. The Southern Seven region has had 190 deaths since the pandemic began. A total of 28,429 variant cases have been reported in the state through Tuesday.

SMART Health Card provides way to share COVID-19 vaccination status

SPRINGFIELD — New updates to IDPH’s Vax Verify immunization portal include use of the SMART Health Card, allowing users to download a QR code, which individuals can use to confirm their COVID vaccination status at businesses, events and other locations.

Vax Verify is an online system that allows Illinois residents 18 years and older to check their COVID-19 vaccination record. It can be accessed at https://idphportal.illinois.gov. The QR code can be downloaded or kept in Apple Wallet and presented for COVID vaccination verification. Businesses wanting to verify vaccination status can download the Commons Project SMART Health Card Verifier App on Apple AppStore and Google Play store.

The verification system follows best practices to protect confidential health information. To download proof of vaccination, residents will go through a brief, one-time identity verification process to gain access to their immunization history. After the verification process, individuals can see their own record in the Illinois Comprehensive Automated Immunization Registry Exchange (I-CARE).

Immunization records are kept confidential and only the individual, or the individual’s parent or guardian if the individual is younger than 18 years, can access their vaccination history. Some individuals with very common names will need to take additional steps to securely prove their identities.

IDPH adopts CDC isolation, quarantine recommendations

SPRINGFIELD — IDPH has adopted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to reduce the number of days for isolation and quarantine for the general public.

The CDC updated its recommendation on Dec. 27, 2021, to decrease isolation for people who test positive from 10 days to five days if they do not have symptoms (may include fever, chills, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, body aches, loss of taste and/or smell) but must continue to mask for five days after isolation ends. These recommendations apply to all individuals, including those who are unvaccinated or are not boosted even though they are eligible.

The CDC also recommended reducing quarantine from 10 days to five days for those who are close contacts to a COVID-19 case and have no symptoms, but individuals should continue to mask for five days after quarantine ends.

Individuals who have received two doses of either Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson, as well as their booster do not need to quarantine after close contact with a case, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.

Additionally, individuals who have not yet reached the six-month mark to receive a booster for Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech, or two months for Johnson & Johnson, do not need to quarantine after close contact with a case, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.

For people who have had close contact to a case, public health officials recommend testing at day five after exposure. If a person develops symptoms, they should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not caused by COVID-19.

Schools should continue to follow the IDPH COVID-19 School Guidance. Health care personnel and other specific groups and setting should continue to follow their respective guidance.

In addition, on Monday, Jan. 3, the IDPH adopted the CDC’s recommendation to shorten the interval from six months to five months for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster dose. Only people who received two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine during their primary series can now receive an mRNA (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) booster dose five months after their second shot. The booster interval remains the same for those who received the Moderna vaccine (six months) or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for their primary series.

The CDC recommends moderately or severely immunocompromised children ages 5 to 11 receive a third dose of vaccine 28 days after their second dose. Parents should talk with their pediatrician or health care provider about a potential third dose.

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