SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) -The Director of the Sangamon County Department of Public Health, Gail O'Neill, said COVID cases are still on the rise in many central Illinois communities.

"You kind of feel like you're failing in some ways, that our community numbers are so high," O'Neill said.

On Wednesday, the Sangamon County Department of Public Health reported the number of positive cases reached a record high.

"They went up to the highest we had yesterday at 49," O'Neill said. 

According to O'Neill, it could take days or weeks for a person to be notified they've tested positive for the virus.

"The SIU testing that's going on in our parking lot, they started on Monday, and some people who tested on Monday got results yesterday," O'Neill said. "Really it's only two days for some of the testing sites. At a lab, it could take a week for people to get their results."

Once a person is notified they tested positive, the Department of Public Health works to connect a possible chain of infection.

"Contact tracing is an organized plan to control the spread of the disease," O'Neill said.

According to O'Neill, it takes some detective work to piece together the puzzle.

"We start with the person who is positive and start to establish where they have been and who've they've exposed," O'Neill said.

With more people testing positive for the virus, O'Neill said it is more difficult to contact trace.

"It's hard to remember all the places you were 72 hours ago. A lot of times, the information people fill out on the forms is not complete," O'Neill said. "We might not have an accurate phone number or address but one of the things we've realized is, our phone numbers don't come through as a number people will recognize. If you're like me, you don't want to answer calls you don't know."

In order to better contact trace, O'Neill said the department has to bring in more manpower.

"The state's first estimate is that really, we'd need 60 people to do this," O'Neill said. "We have brought on, through the beginning of this, about 15 of our contractual nurses to help. We're going to try to get a few more people involved."

Back in May, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state was dedicating $80 million to contact tracing. In a Thursday press conference, Pritzker continued to stress the importance of contact tracing.

"Please answer your phone," Pritzker said. "Contact tracers are calling to let you know if you've been exposed to someone who has tested positive, where you can go get tested and give you valuable information that will keep you and your family healthy."

For anyone thinking of getting tested, O'Neill said there are some things to keep in mind.

"Try to start gathering information. Names and phone numbers would be very helpful of people that may have exposed," O'Neill said. "It just makes the process go faster."

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