by Jake Cardinal
(ANNews) – Alberta is seeing a sustained record number of new COVID-19 cases confirmed in the province daily, and with each case there are double to triple the number of close contacts that require notification and follow-up.
This volume is unprecedented. On November 4th, 515 new cases were identified bringing the province’s total active cases to 6230. November 5th marked over 800 new cases in Alberta. By comparison, on October 1, the province reported 150 new cases with a total of 1546 active cases.
To meet the growing demand, effective Friday, November 6, the Alberta Health Services (AHS) has changed its protocol for contact tracing team.
AHS will continue to directly notify close contacts of cases of COVID-19 confirmed in three priority groups only:
- health care workers,
- minors (parents will be notified if their child has been exposed in the school setting); and,
- Individuals who live or work within congregate or communal facilities.
However, AHS will no longer directly notify individual close contacts of positive cases that are confirmed outside of these three priority groups at this time.
Instead, Albertans who are not within these priority groups who have tested positive for COVID-19 will be asked to notify their own close contacts of the exposure. Event organizers will also still be directed to notify event attendees of an exposure and workplaces will be informed by AHS of a case and directed to send out the notification to employees.
AHS will continue to directly contact all positive cases of COVID-19 to notify them of the result, identify priority contacts whom AHS will notify, and provide the case with guidance on notification of their own contacts.
Close contacts are defined as anyone who was within two metres of a positive case of COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes, even if a mask was worn during that contact. A close contact is ALSO someone who has had direct contact with bodily fluids of a person who has COVID-19 (e.g., was coughed or sneezed on), or who provided direct care for a person who has COVID-19. Anyone who falls into any of the above categories is considered a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19.
“The identification and notification of close contacts of COVID-19 remains critical to Alberta’s fight against COVID-19,” states the AHS website. “Rapid notification of close contacts ensures that those exposed can isolate and get tested before potentially spreading disease to others.
“This pilot approach will improve the efficiency of all contact tracing and allow the contact tracing team to focus on populations at greatest risk of illness and further spread. AHS also continues to hire more staff and develop additional, innovative approaches to augment the contact tracing team.
“As we move these changes forward, it’s imperative that all Albertans consider limiting their social bubble. To the extent that we limit the number of contacts we each have, we can further reduce the risk and scope of exposures when a case is confirmed.
“We appreciate the collaboration of all Albertans as we continue to fight COVID-19 together.
“To support Albertans who will be asked to notify their own close contacts, a new webpage has been developed at www.ahs.ca/closecontacts. The webpage includes phone call scripts and email/text content that Albertans can use when notifying their own close contacts, as well as guidelines and worksheets to help identify and track those requiring notification.”
For more information on the COVID-19 pandemic in Alberta, all Albertans can visit www.ahs.ca/covid.
Jake Cardinal is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter.