B.C. hiring 500 health workers to help with COVID-19 contact-tracing efforts
Premier John Horgan speaks during a press conference at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
VANCOUVER -- The B.C. government is calling in reinforcements in its ongoing battle against COVID-19.
On Wednesday, Premier John Horgan announced the province is hiring 500 more health care professionals to help with contact-tracing efforts across B.C.
"We want to make sure that we keep people safe, and one of the best ways to do that is to have strong contact-tracing," Horgan said.
"This plan will help us deal with community transmission now and into the fall."
Since the start of the pandemic, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has stressed the crucial role contact-tracing teams play in limiting the spread of COVID-19 after outbreaks and community exposure events.
Every time a new infection is discovered, the teams rush to determine who else might have been exposed and contact them directly so they can self-isolate. Henry has said the faster they can work, the more effective they can be at "breaking the chains of transmission."
There has been increasing pressure on contact-tracing teams as British Columbia's COVID-19 caseload has surged in recent weeks, reaching levels not seen since mid-May.
Much of that has been driven by younger people in their 20s and 30s partying in close spaces and mingling with people who are outside of their bubbles.
Horgan said if that behaviour doesn't stop, B.C. may have to take a tougher approach to enforcement.
"When it comes to things like private parties, people flouting the restrictions on the number of faces in the smaller spaces, we're going to be looking hard at enforcement when it comes to situations like that," he said.
"We have been successful without taking a punitive approach to this pandemic, and we want to keep it that way, but if people continue to work around or try and disregard the rules that the rest of British Columbians are following then we will of course take action."
Officials said they expect many of the hundreds of new contact-tracing hires will be recent graduates, retired nurses and other health-care professionals.
They will be recruited by Provincial Health Services Authority and begin work in September.
Apart from contact-tracing work, they will also support the health system by "providing education in communities, and possibly immunizing for influenza and other disease," the Ministry of Health said in a news release.