Close contacts of Alberta COVID-19 cases to be notified by text message

CALGARY — Health officials are streamlining the way they will be notifying close contacts of active COVID-19 cases in Alberta in an effort to cut down on the time it takes to track the illness.

Under the new process, any Albertan who has contracted coronavirus is asked to immediately access the COVID-19 Close Contact Tool, which allows them to enter information, including phone numbers, of known close contacts.

Once the information is reviewed, everyone on the phone list will be contacted by text message.

“The automated text message will inform close contacts of their exposure and instruct each contact to isolate immediately for 14 days. It will also provide a link to further information on isolation requirements, testing options, symptoms and supports available. The name of the positive case will not be disclosed in the text messages.”

AHS says this rapid notification of close contacts will make sure that those exposed can isolate themselves and pursue COVID-19 testing as soon as possible.

The innovation couldn’t come any sooner, as teams contacted more than 43,000 Albertans who were designated close contacts of active COVID-19 cases between Nov. 6 and 9, said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.

“Thank you to those Albertans who were cases or contacts and who worked with the contact tracers to prevent further spread,” she said during Thursday’s media conference.

“We have to keep this effort up together with limiting our close contacts, maintaining physical distance masking and staying home when sick. The efficiency and completeness of our contact tracing efforts is critical to stemming new cases in Alberta.”

NEW CONTACT TRACING POSITIONS ADDED

In addition to the updated notification tool, AHS says 425 new contact tracing positions have been added in Alberta to ensure the province has the personnel to properly track new cases of COVID-19.

By the time the new contact tracers are on the job, there will be more than 1,200 people enlisted to do the work.

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AHS says Albertans can also still help stem the spread of COVID-19 through a number of simple measures such as downloading the province’s ABTraceTogether app and following health guidelines and advice.

“It remains critical that that all Albertans limit their social bubble, and follow all other public health guidance,” AHS says.

“By limiting the number of close contacts we each have now, and stringently following all public health measures, we can each directly impact the days and weeks ahead.”

Contact tracing in Alberta is conducted between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., seven days a week.

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