Coronavirus

Need to show proof of COVID-19 test for work or daycare? Here’s the new way to do it, say health officials

Adebayo Adeniyan, a phlebotomist from HR Support, gets information from a patron on a cold Tuesday afternoon as cars line up at the COVID-19 testing location in the parking lot at the Kishwaukee Family YMCA in Sycamore.

If your place of employment requires you to submit a return to work letter after a COVID-19 test, the only way to get that now is to opt into the state of Illinois’ new contact tracing program, said local health officials.

The news comes weeks after the Illinois Department of Public Health announced that the state model of contact tracing would be evolving into an automated system: Those who receive a positive result from a COVID-19 test will receive an automated text alerting them to next steps for notifying close contacts.

But here’s the catch: You’ll only get that option if you get a coronavirus test through a laboratory such as through state sites, pharmacies or pop-up test sites in your community.

“Individuals who call the number in the text will be considered as ‘opting in’ for an interview and symptom monitoring,” said DeKalb County health officials in a recent public announcement. “For those who you who require a return to work letter, it is imperative that you opt in. This is the only way for you to get that return to work letter. Please do not call the health department at the end of your quarantine for a letter if you did not opt in, we will not be able to give you the letter.”

The statewide surge center contact tracing chances went into effect Thursday, Jan. 13.

That includes those who require proof of negative tests for daycares or other scenarios, especially if someone is using an at-home test.

“If you test positive, we encourage you to confirm results with an official lab confirmation or contact your provider,” DeKalb County health officials wrote. “This is another situation where we are not able to give you a release letter to daycare, work, etc. If you will need an official letter, you must follow up at a facility that officially reports results.”

The new system is part of a plan, according to the IDPH, to centralize contact tracing and case investigation across the state, amid record-breaking COVID-19 case surges reported by the state. Record numbers don’t encompass all known cases however, health officials have said, since reported cases don’t include positive cases from at-home test results or backlogged test results from overwhelmed laboratories amid a spike in Illinoisans seeking tests.

That means local health department staff won’t be tasked with tracing exposure points for every single case as they did before.

So it’s up to the person who’s contracted the virus to let others around them know they might’ve been exposed, Gonzalez said.

When someone tests positive – using a lab test not an at-home test – they’ll receive the following text from the State Surge Center at the time their results are made available to them: “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 link will take you to a website full of information on case investigation and contact tracing, isolation and quarantine,” Gonzalez said. “It will also instruct you that you should be looking back 48 hours to determine who might be close contacts. So it’s really putting it on the individual for and providing information for what they need to take appropriate steps.”

Gonzalez said there will also be an option for someone to phone a call center and be walked through the process by another person if they need help.

“What this means for us is we will pivot and continue to focus on large outbreaks and on those big risk populations like schools, daycares and other congregate settings,” Gonzalez said. “So we’ll continue to work very closely with K-12 schools, longterm and congregate care through mitigation strategies during periods of high transmission.”

If someone test positive for COVID-19, they should isolate themselves for five days from the day symptoms began or from the day of a test. If after five days, they have been fever-free for 24 hours, without the aid of a fever-reducing medication and no longer exhibit symptoms, they can leave isolation on day six but must continue to mask.

Those exposed are asked to wait at least five days before seeking a test to ensure the highest possibility that the virus will not show up as a false negative on a rapid test. PCR tests remain the strongest form of confirming detection of the virus. If someone thinks they might have COVID-19 or is experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms, they should isolate until they get a test result back.