In the state of Illinois, bars and restaurants are linked to the second highest rate of exposure for COVID-19 cases according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. In DeKalb County’s region (which includes Winnebago, Sauk Valley, etc.), they’re the fourth highest.
When public health officials attempt to track COVID-19 viral transmission, they also track potential transmission. That is, where a person who’s tested positive has been in the past 14 or so days, and the probability that they may have infected others, whether known or unknown, too.
That’s the principal behind newly-released contact tracing data put out by the IDPH Friday, which breaks down COVID-19 transmission by confirmed case, potential exposure point and confirmed outbreak location. The data is collected through information gathered by contact tracing – which is fully dependent on those who’ve tested positive being honest with contact tracers on where they’ve been and who they’ve been with in the days prior to their confirmed virus detection.
Specific locations aren’t listed individually, however, they’re broken down into industries: schools, workplaces, homes or private residences, factories, long-term care facilities and, yes, bars and restaurants.
The data dump marks the first in a weeks-long request demanded of the IDPH and state leaders such as Gov. JB Pritzker to put their money where their mouth is, and provide proof that viral spread is occurring in places like eateries, which to date seem to be bearing the brunt of tightened restrictions amid COVID-19 resurgences across the state.
Statewide, contact tracers have about a 53% response rate when reaching out to positive cases to assess transmission data. That means data put forth by IDPH Friday isn’t a complete picture of how the virus is spreading across the state.
When asked why the data represents a case total of 191,960 instead of the over 465,000 cases that are confirmed in the state to date, Pritzker said Friday its partly because contact tracing wasn’t occurring as thoroughly at the beginning of the pandemic as it is now.
“Obviously you’re not going to call people that had COVID back at beginning,” Pritzker said. “We’re doing cases as they come, so you have to think about the number of people [contact tracers] that were being hired at the beginning, so they weren’t up to their full quota, but we’re obviously doing more on a daily basis now than they were at the beginning.”
In a recent interview with the Daily Chronicle, local health officials from the DeKalb County Health Department said providing that data – how many cases are connected to this restaurant, or that bar, isn’t as easy as one may think.
The released data isn’t by county, which is what several in DeKalb County have called for since the prohibition on indoor dining began Oct. 3. Instead, the information is presented region by region, per the state’s breakdown of health regions, or geographical areas divided up throughout the state based on regional hospital capacity and available ICU beds to address a surge.
Exposures by industry
Exposure data is where it gets tricky – and this, health officials have said, is what causes the greater level of concern.
A single COVID-19 case may have more than one location of exposure attributed to them because they could have visited several locations – out to church, then breakfast, maybe school or to a friend’s house, then the gym, and drinks with friends to cap off the day.
The IDPH defines exposure locations as locations where transmission of COVID-19 may have occurred, not that these are definitive exposure or outbreak locations. The IDPH defines outbreak as five or more cases linked to a common location during a 14-day period. These linked cases also must be from different households and not already connected from other sources.
Statewide, COVID-19 cases by potential exposure location, defined as being “gathered by asking cases to recall locations visited in the 14 days preceding symptom onset or specimen collection if symptoms are not present,” by IDPH revealed a wide set of locations where confirmed COVID-19 cases may have been.
At the top of the list: Other, with 4,180 cases, or 11.6% of the total breakdown.
Second: Bars and restaurants, with 3,877 cases, or 10.8% of the total breakdown.
In Region 1, schools are listed as the highest exposure location, with 768 cases (17.5%), following by business and retail at 588 cases (13.4%), workplaces other than offices with 536 cases (12.2%), restaurants and bars with 368 cases (8.37%) and hospitals and clinics with 333 cases (7.58%).
Outbreak data for Region 1
The data lists outbreaks per region and industry.
Outbreaks do not include secondary cases from those originally linked to the outbreak (if a person who becomes infected from their workplace and then passes the infection onto a household member).
Since July 1, outbreaks in Region 1 have been most present in factories or manufacturing facilities, according to the data, with 31% of known outbreaks occurring in those facilities.
Second: ‘workplaces’, with 9.52% of outbreaks.
It’s a four-way tie for industries with the third highest rate of outbreaks, including correctional facilities retail or sales establishments, group homes and hospice of home health care locations. Community events, schools, long-term care facilities and restaurants come in a 4.7%6. And churches, bars, childcare facilities, first responder workplaces, and construction businesses in last with 2.38% of known outbreaks since July 1.
Contact tracing data will be updated on the IDPH’s website weekly from here forward on Fridays.
You can check out your individual region’s results at: http://www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19/location-exposure
Source: The Daily Chronicle