SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is adopting new federal guidelines for tracking COVID-19 at the community level. According to the new guidelines, testing providers will no longer be required to report some negative tests and IDPH will therefore no longer report test and case positivity.

In addition, IDPH is bolstering the data on its COVID-19 dashboard to provide additional information to help communities respond to changes in the course of the virus.

Among the new data that has been or will be shared on the IDPH COVID-19 dashboard are the following:

• Updated data on vaccination rates to reflect the full population eligible as eligibility continues to evolve.
• The number of people admitted to the hospital with a COVID-19 diagnosis.
• More detailed data on hospitalizations, including information about vaccination status in those who are hospitalized.

“Test and case positivity rates were seen as a good way to monitor the level of community spread early in the pandemic,” said IDPH Acting Director Amaal Tokars. “At this stage, now that we have vaccines and effective therapies available, it is more useful to rely on data that indicates the case rate, disease severity and the level of strain on the healthcare system to guide our public health recommendations.”

The changes adopted by the CDC mean that states will no longer be required to report negative antigen test (rapid test) results – and are only required to report negative PCR and NAAT (Nucleic Acid Amplification Test) results that were performed in certified labs. The widespread use of at-home tests means that national testing data is not as comprehensive or representative of population-based testing as it was before the introduction of at-home tests.

IDPH officials note that case rates for COVID-19 are now slowly rising in many areas of the state but hospitalizations and deaths continue to remain low. Given that the spread of COVID-19 is increasing, people who are at high risk for serious illness should take the following precautions:

• Get vaccinated and stay up-to-date on recommended booster shots to protect yourself, your loved ones and friends.
• If you are in an area with rising  COVID-19 infections, wear a mask if entering indoor spaces with other people present and consider avoiding large gatherings.
• Stick to well-ventilated areas if you are not wearing a mask indoors around other people.
• If you feel flu-like symptoms, self-isolate and stay home from work as well as social gatherings; and obtain a test as quickly as possible.
• If you test positive, talk to your provider immediately so you can get COVID-19 treatment within five days of starting to feel sick. Also, communicate about the positive result with any persons you have been in close contact within two days of falling sick or testing positive.
• Continue to frequently wash your hands and cover coughs and sneezes.

Officials said the State of Illinois remains strongly positioned to respond in the event of a new COVID-19 surge. According to them, the State stockpile of tests is nearly fully replenished, with more than 1.5 million rapid tests on hand, and a half a million more on the way in the coming weeks. The State has also instructed hospitals, schools, and long-term care facilities to consider their current testing capacity and take all preparations necessary. The State is also supporting pharmacies and healthcare providers in efforts to increase their inventories of the various FDA-authorized treatments in case of another surge.

For more information, click here. To find a COVID-19 vaccination location near you, click here.

The federal government recently established a new website that provides an all-purpose toolkit that provides information on how to obtain masks, treatment, vaccines and testing resources for all areas of the country.