CHICAGO (CBS) — Timing is crucial when it comes to positive COVID-19 cases and effective contract tracing – and we’re learning that means tens of thousands of phone calls at the county level.

CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey broke down the numbers on Monday, and found that some of the call volumes are astounding. The health departments we heard from have a goal of contacting potentially infected people within 24 hours of a positive test, and a yearly budget can be in the millions of dollars.

“Hours definitely make a difference, absolutely,” said Alexa Ristow, case investigation and contact tracing manager for the DuPage County Health Department.

Ristow took us through the numbers in DuPage. Since May 4, contact tracers have completed over 10,647 interviews, staff have made over 19,872 call attempts, and the county has hired 143 contact tracers.

Day after day, the confirmed cases keep coming.

“We’ve certainly encountered folks where are the first people telling them that they’re positive,” Ristow said.

Meanwhile, Kane County tells us that they’ve handled more than 11,838 calls in just the last month.

For every confirmed COVID-19 case, there could be eight or more close contacts identified by tracers.

For example, in one week last month, Kane County traced 439 positive cases – which were then connected to 1,474 close contacts.

Ristow said it is easy to see how quickly those numbers multiply.

“I know that we’ve had some cases that have upwards of 20 close contacts, which is a lot; probably not the norm,” she said. “I would say our average is somewhere between 2 and 8 close contacts.”

Kane County has about 68 tracers work and estimates a contract through May of next year to cost more than $ 8 million.

We reached out to several other counties in our area, which did not have the interview numbers or call volumes readily available.

We’ve requested that data, and we will, of course, keep following up.

 

Megan Hickey