Local health unit challenged in its ability to alert close contacts of those who test positive for COVID

Health unit says it is managing three fronts

With an increasing number of COVID-19 infections in the region, the medical officer of health for Simcoe Muskoka admits the health unit is challenged in its ability to keep up with the cases.

Dr. Charles Gardner told a media briefing on Tuesday they have three fronts they are managing as a health unit.

He says more than of half of their staff has been deployed to the COVID-19 response in the community such as case and contact management, as well as advising and enforcing with businesses about the practices that are required.

“We’ve had to maintain some of our staff doing our essential services that cannot wait; other vaccine provision or animal bites with regard to rabies, and things that need to be managed about the opioid crisis,” said Gardner, describing the second front.

He said they have a third front which is the arrival of the vaccine and to deliver it.

“That is just so important that we do that and we do it well. This is our way out of this pandemic.”

Gardner says the three fronts and rising infection rate has left the health unit stretched.

Even with support from Public Health Ontario and Statistics Canada to follow up, Gardner says they have to simplify the information they take from case assessments.

“We are requiring more of them to do the notification of their contacts. We will take information about those contacts. In most instances we’re now asking cases to follow up with contacts to advise them to go into isolation,” said Gardner.

He initially made mention of the notification challenge in September. Gardner says the difference now is they have moved to a higher degree of doing this.

There is even a script on the health unit’s website for an infected person to use when they reach out to a contact. There is no longer any follow up with an infected person after their full period of isolation is over.

“We give them the date. They don’t get a follow up call from us. They come out of isolation on their own. They are most welcome to call us with their needs whenever they wish, but we’ve had to simplify the process.”