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Close contacts for positive COVID-19 cases falling in Alberta

Click to play video: 'Alberta tracers seeing drop in close contacts fear that will change as restrictions ease' Alberta tracers seeing drop in close contacts fear that will change as restrictions ease
Contact tracers are finding positive cases of COVID-19 in Alberta have fewer close contacts than a few months ago, but they are warning that number will likely go up as the province continues to reopen its economy – Feb 12, 2021

The number of close contacts for every positive COVID-19 case in Alberta is falling but the figure is anticipated to increase as the province moves forward in its reopening plan.

In November, there was an average of 15 close contacts per case. At the time, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said it was impossible to call every close contact.

With case numbers on the rise last year, tracers were overwhelmed and many investigations were either delayed or put on hold indefinitely.

READ MORE: Alberta marks deadliest day since COVID-19 pandemic began

Now, after restrictions were put into place in November and December, Laura Mah, assistant head nurse for the case investigation and contact tracing team, said there are typically between five and six close contacts per positive case.

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However, as the province continues to reopen, Mah said there is the expectation that number will go up.

READ MORE: Alberta adds more contact tracers, can now trace every COVID-19 case

“As the public health measures ease up, we’re going to see positive cases have more close contacts that we need to investigate, so it probably will take a bit longer. There will be people doing more things than they would have been, say, in the last couple months where we’ve been more restricted,” she said.

Mah urges Albertans to continue following public health measures, keep track of where they go and be as open as possible if they are contacted by a tracer.

More contact tracers have also been hired by Alberta Health Services, and Mah said they are currently able to trace a positive case and their close contacts typically within 24 hours.

Variant contact tracing team

The number of variant cases in the province is on the rise, with 156 identified as of Thursday. AHS has established a designated variant contact tracing team, which Mah has been setting up.

Mah said the team consists of the most experienced case investigators.

“We’re going back, really trying to find the source of exposure. So we’re going to go back 14 days prior to when that case got sick or tested positive,” she said.

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“We’re asking questions like, ‘If you’re out at the shops, what shop were you at, what time, how long were you there for?’ We’re being very, very specific in the questions we’re asking and really specific details about where people have been.”

The variants are more transmissible than the current strain, but Mah said the criteria to define a close contact remains the same – within two metres of a person for 15 minutes or more.

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