What's it like to be a contact tracer?

Contract tracers are responsible for investigating and tracing COVID-19 positive cases.

Contact tracing is an essential step to limit the spread of COVID-19. The method isn't new and Alberta Health Services (AHS) has used it to track other infectious diseases. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of AHS contact tracers has grown rapidly to contain COVID-19 positive cases across the province.

Contact tracing begins when someone tests positive for COVID-19. As soon as contact tracers receive the results, they phone the individual that’s tested positive.

During the call, contact tracers note down anyone who the individual came into contact with. After they contact anyone who may have been exposed to confirmed cases, the individuals are asked to self-isolate and be tested for COVID-19.

According to AHS, in cases requiring tracking, an average of four to six people are contacted along the chain of potential infection. Alberta's contact tracing team contacted close to 23,000 Albertans between February and June. 

Who did AHS hire for their contact tracing team?

At the height of the pandemic in Alberta, more than 400 people were hired by AHS to investigate and trace COVID-19 positive cases. Contact tracing is usually done by public health nurses, but AHS expanded the range of health care providers who are able to work as contact tracers.

"AHS will now be able to hire chiropractors, paramedics, respiratory therapists, physiotherapists, registered psychiatric nurses, LPNs, dentists, pharmacists and dental hygienists. Everyone, regardless of their experience, will enter into a comprehensive contact tracer program developed by AHS," said Health Minister Tyler Shandro in a tweet.

Hundreds of medical students from the University of Alberta and University of Calgary were also hired.

How do people respond to AHS contact tracers?

"Some people at first, they’re surprised. Other people are actually expecting it because maybe the person who came back positive was able to call them (before) we were," doctor and contact tracer Grace Salvo told Global News.

Some of the responses to calls were: "Thank goodness it's COVID, I’m feeling so crummy" and "You’re lying," reported the Calgary Herald.

According to AHS, contact tracers do not look at anyone’s medical files. The only personal information they ask for is a name, date of birth and phone number.

Published By:
Hiba Kamal-Choufi

Hiba Kamal-Choufi

Saturday, July 25, 2020

by Emily Rendell-Watson


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For the latest updates on the COVID-19 pandemic, see edmonton.ca/covid19, alberta.ca/covid19, canada.ca/covid19, and the World Health Organization.