Almost 20,000 COVID-19 contacts chased in Alberta

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As of Thursday, contact tracers in the province had made 18,000 calls to people who had been in close contact with those who tested positive with COVID-19.

When the man behind Alberta’s contact tracing program sees the explosion of COVID-19 in the United States, he can’t help but shake.

Dr. Jia Hu notes that some larger states such as Florida are now recording well over 10,000 new cases a day (Sunday, the state recorded a record of over 15,000), or more than nearly 9,000 positive tests recorded in Alberta since the start of the crisis.

“It would be very difficult to trace 10,000 cases a day,” said Hu, a Calgary area medical officer.

“I suppose it would be possible, but you would need thousands of contact tracers. . . if i was in florida i don’t know what i would do. ”

Tracking the chains of possible COVID-19 infections in Alberta has kept health officials busy enough, Hu said.

Last Thursday, contact tracers in the province made 18,000 calls to people who had been in close contact with those who tested positive with COVID-19.

The hardest part, he said, was following the biggest epidemic in North America, the one that affected workers at the Cargill meat packing plant in High River, which was linked to more than 1,500 cases. and three deaths.

“It’s complex and difficult in different ways when you have language barriers and more,” said Hu.

At the height of the pandemic in Alberta – in April and the first part of May – more than 400 people followed up on positive test cases, checked symptoms, and ordered tests and quarantines as needed.

That number of contact tracers – whose ranks have been bolstered by medical students – has since been reduced to 240, according to Alberta Health Services.

In cases requiring follow-up, on average four to six people are contacted along the chain of potential infection, explains AHS.

But with physical distance and testing, this detective work remains a pillar of prevention, said Hu, adding that a good compliance response has proven to be crucial.

“It is one of the only ways to stop business from growing,” he said.

“It is quite rare that people do not isolate themselves. “

In this video capture image, cell phones are used by the provincial CD contact tracing team. Composed of doctors and nurses, the team is responsible for contacting each Albertan whose test for COVID-19 is positive in order to find the people who have been in contact with them.

Alex Corrigan detected possible infections for eight weeks, partly from a call room at Sheldon M. Chumir Health Center in Calgary.

The University of Calgary medical student remembers a four-day period when he and his colleagues made between 1,500 and 2,000 contacts.

“It can be stressful and busy at times, but it feels good to participate,” said Corrigan, 23.

Some of those contacted by phone, he said, “were in the middle” of COVID-19 disease, while other times he contacted family members of hospital patients by the virus.

Resistance to any health order or resulting emergency was not common, but it did occur, said Corrigan.

“There were certainly people who were more understanding and those who were less understanding,” he said.

These reactions to his calls, said Corrigan, went through the gamut of denial of relief only to find out.

“There was” Thank goodness it’s COVID, I feel so lousy “to” you’re lying, “he said.

Alex Corrigan was one of about 150 medical students from Calgary who work for the Alberta health services looking for potential COVID-19 carriers.

Gavin Young / Postmedia

Some companies that have reopened after months of closure have also volunteered to help with the research.

Last Best Brewing & Distilling staff, located at 607 11th Ave SW, analyzed the temperature inside clients’ wrists and collected their contact information in case follow-up was required.

This information is removed after 14 days, said general manager Ray Burton, adding that some objected to it for reasons of confidentiality.

“Most people agree with this, although some people have grown back,” he said.

“We want to keep our people and our customers safe, to be part of the solution.”

Confidentiality issues also arose when the province introduced its ABTraceTogether app last May, which allows mobile devices to exchange encrypted information with a nearby device that also has the app.

Information from an infected application user can be downloaded by contact tracers that track those who were nearby.

The app has about 223,000 registered users in the province, according to Alberta Health, whose officials say it’s difficult to determine the number of infections detected.

“ABTraceTogether continues to play a key role in the fight against COVID-19,” Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan said in a statement.

“Using it will reduce the number of new cases and ultimately save lives.”

Although the Alberta Privacy Commissioner gave the green light to the app, Jill Clayton said there are lingering concerns about privacy because in order for it to work, a smartphone must remain unlocked , which increases the risk of theft or loss.

“Alberta Health continues to work with Google and Apple to upgrade the application and improve the user experience,” said McMillan.

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Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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