COVID contact tracers spend long days tracking cases within Island Health

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Island Health's COVID contact tracers spend long days tracking cases, through phone calls as the numbers continue to edge up.

Health Canada’s educational video details how contact tracing works.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, contact tracing is more important than ever, according to Bridget Zohner.

She is part of Island Health’s team of 100 contact tracers.

“Tracing is really a misnomer.  It only really speaks to a small part of what we do,” said Zohner.

Across the province, 1,326 people are now actively engaged in tracking down all positive cases, and their contacts.

“We’re really busy all day doing that investigation piece trying to figure out where people got the virus from, who their contacts are, and helping everyone to isolate so that they’re not spreading the virus,” Zohner said.

With cases increasing on Vancouver Island, identifying every positive case by contact tracers becomes more important, according to epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Labos, associate with the McGill Office for Science and Society.

“There is a very very clear benefit to doing that. And it’s importance can’t be overstated. It’s just logistically complicated. And it takes a lot of effort, but if you would do it well, it pays dividends,” Dr. Labos said.

As the number of cases increase, so does the workload.

“It’s not uncommon to start at around eight in the morning and work to 10,11, 12 at night, and then coming on and on days off as well, just to get the work done right now,” Zohner said.

People who may be exposed to the positive person’s droplets need to be identified and contacted by Island Health.

By tracking the disease it allows public health to develop policies during the pandemic, such as BC’s restriction against social gatherings to reduce the risk.

“If you have adequate contact tracing you can see what is a potentially high-risk activity and what isn’t, so that helps you in designing your lockdown,” Dr. Labos said.

Zohner said her team members of contact tracers are constantly learning how to do things better to identify cases faster.

“It’s a large group of highly dedicated healthcare professionals all working towards a united vision mitigating COVID spread on Vancouver Island.”

That takes a team of healthcare professionals hunting down every case of COVID-19 to stop it in its tracks.

READ MORE: Island Health sees record-setting daily spike in COVID cases as officials announce 47 new

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