Alberta Health Services is now able to investigate every COVID-19 case, an improvement after the contact-tracing system in the province collapsed at the end of last year.
As of Jan. 29, AHS said it had more than 2,000 contact tracers and has the ability to trace approximately 1,200 cases every day.
“Currently, AHS is able to contact and investigate all COVID-19 cases we receive each day,” said AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson.
“Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 are no longer being asked to notify their close contacts themselves of the exposure.”
As daily case counts were surging in November, AHS switched to only tracing cases in high-priority settings, such as continuing care facilities, healthcare facilities and schools; other positive cases were left to do their own tracing.
The province also stopped tracing positive cases where who had already spent 10 days in isolation, as it focused on the most recent cases first.
On Jan. 12, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said they were able to reach out to these high-priority cases within 24 hours. At the time, Hinshaw said there wasn’t an exact date of when all new cases could be reached within 24 hours but she said that was the goal.
Williamson said the improvement was due in part to lower case counts in the province as well as recruitment efforts for contact tracers and the implementation of text and email notifications.
AHS said it had 50 contact tracers before the coronavirus pandemic began. More people were hired in the spring and by July, there were roughly 300 contact tracers.
As of late October, AHS said there were close to 800 contact tracers and it was in the process of hiring approximately 380 staff to bring the total number to more than 1,100.
AHS is continuing to hire and train more contact tracers, with roughly 500 people completing orientation near the end of January.
Williamson said close contacts of cases in schools are notified within 24 hours of AHS receiving the list of close contacts from schools.
The process of contact tracing involves phoning a positive case, identifying close contacts and following up with those individuals in the hopes of limiting further transmission.
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