The Ontario government has hired more case managers and contact tracers, building the provincial workforce to 1,600 by February 15, 2021. Along with staff who work in or have been redeployed within public health units, this support brings the total number of case and contact tracers in the province to nearly 5,600 staff. These people are vital in helping to isolate new cases of COVID-19 and stopping the spread of the virus in communities across Ontario.
“Our government continues to use every resource at its disposal to fight COVID-19 and keep Ontarians safe,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “By expanding our case and contact management capacity, we are significantly boosting our ability to respond to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the province. We are immensely grateful to our public health units and this provincial workforce, who are all working to keep Ontarians safe and healthy and stop the spread of this deadly virus.”
As part of its Fall Preparedness Plan, the province has hired over 700 contact tracers and case managers, in addition to the 600 Statistics Canada employees that are assisting with contact follow-up. The province is onboarding an additional 300 case managers in the coming weeks – bringing the provincial workforce to 1,600 and the total number of case and contact management staff across Ontario to approximately 5,600.
Due to high rates of transmission in Toronto, the Ministry of Health is currently providing 180 case managers and contact tracers to support Toronto Public Health, with plans to increase the number up to 280 in the next few weeks. The provincial workforce also assists 12 public health units across Ontario, providing extensive supports to Windsor-Essex, Ottawa, Hamilton, Halton, Toronto, Waterloo, Peel and York. As new staff are onboarded, they will be made available to additional health units.
Public health units are starting to use technology to reach cases and contacts faster so that people can get into isolation as quickly as possible and limit the spread, including a new, secure “Virtual Assistant” tool.
Through a secure online form, the Virtual Assistant uses text messages to connect health care workers with individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been identified as close contacts. The text messages link to safe and secure web-based forms with questions that help case managers assess symptoms and general health, and identify close contacts. The Virtual Assistant also provides important information to individuals such as guidance on how to self-isolate.
This Virtual Assistant tool is available to all public health units and provincial workforce staff that are supporting public health units. Currently, this new tool is being adopted by a number of public health units including Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Waterloo and York, and will soon be used across the province.