The Ontario government is hiring hundreds more contact tracers and case managers to help track, trace and isolate new cases of COVID-19 across the province
Provincial officials say the province has hired 100 new contact tracers, many of whom are starting work this week, with up to 500 more recruits expected to be hired by mid-November.
These new positions are part the province’s fall preparedness plan, Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19, which dedicates $1.376-billion to enhance and expand testing and contact tracing in the province.
Details were provided on Wednesday by Premier Doug Ford and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.
“With these additional hires, we will have hundreds more boots on the ground to support contact tracing throughout the province, which is an essential weapon in our fight against COVID-19,” stated Premier Ford in a press release.
“Thanks to the absolute pros tracking down the data, we are reaching cases and contacts faster, with 30 public health units reaching 90 per cent of cases within 24 hours. There is nowhere this virus can hide ― and that’s critical to our efforts to contain the spread of this deadly threat and flatten the curve of the second wave.”
Provincial officials say to expedite the onboarding of these additional staffing resources, the government is partnering with Ian Martin, an Ontario-based recruitment firm that has extensive experience in supplying COVID-19 staffing resources.
Ontario Public Service (OPS) staff are also volunteering for redeployment to provide surge support for contact tracing this fall and winter, and over 600 Statistics Canada employees have been onboarded since July to assist with contact follow-up, Provincial officials added.
There are currently more than 2,750 case and contact management staff active across all public health units, tracing and managing COVID-19 cases ― up from approximately 1,500 staff in the spring.
These 600 new recruits and 600 personnel from Statistics Canada will bring the total number of case and contact management staff to nearly 4,000.
The members of this critical and growing workforce are all working to keep Ontarians safe and healthy.
In recent weeks, the province has seen a dramatic rise in the percentage of people with COVID-19, especially in hotspots like Toronto, Ottawa, and Peel.
In response, the province is providing an additional 150 staff to the Ottawa area and over 200 staff are being onboarded in Toronto.
The province is also working with Peel and other public health units across the province to assist contact tracing efforts through the provincial workforce. Hiring additional contact tracers and case managers and deploying them across Ontario will significantly boost the province’s response to the surge in cases and keep the most vulnerable safe and schools open, Provincial officials say.
“With rising COVID-19 cases and outbreaks, we need more contact tracers to ensure the province is able to identify and isolate new cases to limit and stop the spread of the virus,” stated Minister Elliott in a media release.
“Case and contact management is a key component of Ontario’s fall preparedness plan. As part of that plan, our government will continue to work collaboratively with public health units and provide additional staff and resources to support this important work.”
In addition, Ontario has also successfully implemented a centralized Public Health Case and Contact Management (CCM) I&IT System in public health units across the province.
This user-friendly system significantly reduces duplication, speeds up processes and allows for more efficient case and contact management work to be completed, Provincial officials say.
Direct integration with the Ontario Laboratory Information System eliminates the need for health unit staff to re-type COVID-19 data into the province’s former integrated Public Health Information System (iPHIS).
Those who have received a lab test indicating they have COVID-19 can also use CONTACT+, a secure online tool to provide key information and close contacts to their local public health unit.
Providing this data will help accelerate case management and contact tracing work.
To support Ontario’s case and contact management strategy, the province is encouraging everyone to download the COVID Alert app, the country’s made-in-Ontario exposure notification app.
Provincial officials say more than four million Canadians have already downloaded the app to date and nearly 1,000 COVID-19 positive Ontarians have sent anonymous alerts to their close contacts.
The more people who have the app, the more effective the province will be at stopping the spread of COVID-19.
The best way to fight COVID-19 is to continue to follow public health advice that reduces the risk of transmission and helps keep Ontarians safe, Provincial officials added.
Currently, out of 34 public health units, 25 are reaching 100 per cent of their new cases within 24 hours and 30 public health units are reaching 90 per cent or more.
Thirty-one of 34 public health units are using the new Public Health Case and Contact Management (CCM) system and the province is onboarding the remaining three health units in the coming weeks.