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Tracing COVID-19: Ottawa Public Health aims to contact positive cases, close contacts within 24 hours
OTTAWA -- When a case of COVID-19 is confirmed in Ottawa, the staff at Ottawa Public Health gets down to work to trace the individual's movements in the days leading up to developing symptoms of novel coronavirus.
"Their work is a lot like detectives," said Andrew Hendriks of Ottawa Public Health.
Within 24 hours, a case manager will check-in with the individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 by phone to see how they are doing and begin the process of identifying and following-up with close contacts.
There have been 2,083 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa since the first case of COVID-19 on March 11. Besides following up with the confirmed cases, OPH staff have been in touch with more than 7,000 close contacts of confirmed cases.
"It's been fun and challenging," said Marianne Gervais, an Ottawa Public Health nurse and case manager during a question and answer session with Ottawa media on Friday.
Gervais is one of nearly 200 employees working on contact tracing with Ottawa Public Health during the pandemic. The team grew from five full-time staff in March, and includes nurses, medical students and nurse practitioners.
When there were 40 new cases a day in April and May, Gervais told reporters it "requires a lot of teammates to ensure things were done in a timely fashion."
Gervais says when an Ottawa Public Health nurse contacts a confirmed case of COVID-19, they will review the individual's symptoms and why they went to the COVID-19 care clinic, COVID-19 Assessment Centre or other medical clinic for testing. Gervais says the OPH staff and the individual will discuss their recent movements and any possible travel to determine the transmission source of COVID-19.
When an individual tests positive for COVID-19, they are asked to make a list of who they have been in close contact with, and OPH will evaluate whether those individuals are deemed high-risk or medium risk.
"You do spend a lot of time going into a lot of detail with the initial case about their whereabouts," said Hendriks.
The contract tracers will continue to check in with the COVID-19 patients.
Ottawa Public Health aims to contact all confirmed cases of COVID-19 within 24 hours, and then follow up with their close contacts within a day.
As of June 27, Ottawa Public Health had contacted a confirmed case within 24-hours 96 per cent of the time, and 97 per cent of the positive case's close contacts within the 24-hour period.
As the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ottawa Public Health says there were an average of 20 contacts per positive case of COVID-19. The number of contacts per positive case dropped to 2.9 contacts as of June 22.
While the number of cases per day declined in June, Ottawa Public Health redeployed some of its staff back to other core services. However, Gervais says the health unit is ready to shift gears if there is a spike in COVID-19 cases.
"We are preparing for this case if we do get into wave number two, people can be brought back to the COVID-19 response."