BC will hire approximately 500 additional healthcare professionals to help increase contact tracing around the province amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, BC Premier John Horgan announced on Wednesday.
“These new contact tracers will provide an extra layer of protection by jumping into action as soon as there is an outbreak, and will start their detective-style work to find out who may be infected in order to protect all British Columbians,” said Horgan during a press conference, where he was joined by BC Health Minister Adrian Dix, and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“As we have seen in recent weeks, strong contact tracing is absolutely crucial when dealing with community outbreaks as we slowly and safely increase our contacts,” said BC Health Minister Adrian Dix.
Contact tracing works by following up with each person who has tested positive for COVID-19 to understand who their contacts may be and providing appropriate follow-up. Health authorities’ public health teams typically have staff who do contact tracing of communicable diseases as part of their regular work.
And given the current “scale of response needed” needed for COVID-19, the province said these additional supports are necessary.
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“When there is a community outbreak, time is of the essence,” said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. “These new contact tracers will work with existing public health teams to help track down all those who may have been exposed and support people to self-isolate when necessary.”
The province said these positions will be temporary and will be recruited by provincial health services, and the regional health authorities. Candidates will begin work in September 2020 and will be employed until the end of March 2021, “with opportunity for extension” if needed.
Some of the positions will also help to support public health services, such as providing education in communities and possibly immunizing for influenza and other diseases, the province said.