The grey region of this chart shows the growth of untraced infection, due to lack of information on potential sources. With added staff and reorganization, the gap is stabilized, Dr. Bonnie Henry says. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)

The grey region of this chart shows the growth of untraced infection, due to lack of information on potential sources. With added staff and reorganization, the gap is stabilized, Dr. Bonnie Henry says. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)

B.C. adjusts COVID-19 tracing to keep up with surging cases

People now notified of test results by text message

The growing number of COVID-19 positive tests without the likely source identified is a key sign of rapid community spread that is outpacing the growth and reach of B.C.’s contact tracing teams.

Contact tracers have been hired, transferred and trained as quickly as possible to keep up with the current surge of novel coronavirus infections, particularly in the Fraser Health region where about 70 per cent of the new cases are being identified. Public health officials have also pleaded with people to cooperate when they are contacted about their movements in likely exposure situations.

The number of “unknown” sources has been running at about 20 to 25 per cent in Fraser Health, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said, and reorganizing the reporting system has helped as the case numbers have taken off in November. Specialized teams have been assigned for workplaces, schools and health care facilities, where people are exposed in the community and then go to work or school. And test results are now being transmitted by automated text message.

“I wouldn’t say we’re losing but we’re on the edge for sure,” Henry said at a briefing for reporters in Victoria Nov. 25. “Contact tracing is something where we need to spend time with people. We’ve automated some things including the automated response so people are now getting their test results, whether positive or negative, by text with information about what to do and how to start the process of determining who they had contact with so when they are contacted, that can speed it up and there’s an online form we’re putting in place for that as well.”

RELATED: B.C. sees deadliest day Wednesday, 13 deaths, 738 cases

RELATED: B.C. plans for COVID-19 vaccine rollout in early 2021

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the original goal of adding 500 contact tracers has been revised to 1,200, and retired health care staff are stepping up to help keep up with demand. The return of the province-wide essential-only travel advisory is showing up, as people limit their movements and social contacts in a bid to get infections down before the Christmas season.

“COVID-19 everywhere in the world, the second wave is incredibly tough, and regardless of the question of resources and on top of it, we need everyone to be all-in,” Dix said. “In the last week in terms of activity in the province we’ve seen a decline in ferry traffic and other things that show how committed people are.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC politicsCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rick Morgan, Nanaimo Search and Rescue building director, and Carly Trobridge, president and search manager, turn sod to kick off the start of renovations to NSAR’s headquarters Tuesday, Jan. 26. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Search and Rescue getting started on $2.6-million makeover at Harewood headquarters

Renovation project will increase space for vehicles and improve training and management operations

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while B.C. cases decrease

Island’s top doc Dr. Stanwick breaks down the Island’s rising numbers

A downed power line has sparked a brush fire along Yellow Point Road south of Nanaimo. (Cole Schisler/Black Press)
Downed hydro line sparks brush fire in Yellow Point

North Oyster firefighters and B.C. Hydro on scene along Yellow Point Road

A concrete seawall built to prevent erosion on a property on Driftwood Drive on Mudge Island. (Islands Trust image)
Appeal Court says Mudge Island homeowners’ seawall has to go

Court decides right to guard against erosion isn’t a ‘privileged’ property right

McDonald’s on Nicol Street in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
McDonald’s in Nanaimo reports COVID-19 case

Employee at Nicol Street location last worked Jan. 17

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have arrested a prolific offender who is now facing more than 40 charges. (Black Press file photo)
‘Priority offender’ arrested in Cowichan Valley faces more than 40 charges

Tyler Elrix, 37, had a history of evading police; was ordered not to be in Vancouver Island

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Emergency crews were called to a three-vehicle crash Monday morning on the old Island Highway close to Rock City Road. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Car, pickup and semi truck crash along the highway in Nanaimo

Incident happened in front of Rock City Plaza on Monday morning

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
5 big lessons experts say Canada should learn from COVID-19

‘What should be done to reduce the harms the next time a virus arises?’ Disease control experts answer

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Most Read