The Government of B.C. has fulfilled its goal of hiring more than 1,200 contact tracers over the past few months—but as the province continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, its recruitment efforts are not stopping there.
As of Thursday,1,235 people to date have been hired as part of the province’s contact tracing initiative.
“Our target was to hire 1,224 positions,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix. “100 per cent of this new target is now complete.”
In August, the government unveiled its initial plans to hire approximately 500 more individuals to join its existing team of “500 to 600 people who were involved in contact tracing before August,” before upping that number to 608 in October.
Contact tracers are tasked with following up with each person who has tested positive for the virus, in an effort to understand who their contacts may be and who else might be infected. Contact tracers can then follow up with those contacts, ideally to support people who may need to self-isolate, effectively stopping any potential transmission of the virus whenever possible. Though B.C. health authorities’ public health teams carried out contact tracing of communicable diseases as part of their regular work prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, “the scale of the response needed” in 2020 required the additional supports, the government said.
Dix said the province has also received “additional supports” aside from the new hires, including from Statistics Canada. B.C. officials are also “actively working with the Red Cross and others” to keep the operational centre of B.C.’s regional contact tracing hub at the Vancouver Convention Centre running smoothly, he said.
Despite reaching its goal, the province is looking to continue building its contact tracing capacity. As Dix explained during Thursday’s briefing, 385 candidates are currently in the interview stage, while 121 candidates are in the offer stage.
Broken down by health region, the new hires equate to 280 more contact tracers in the Vancouver Coastal Health authority, 579 in Fraser Health, 71 on Vancouver Island, 63 in the Interior Health region and 42 more contact tracers in Northern Heath. Two hundred of the new hires were assigned to the Provincial Health Services Authority, which includes the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
According to Dix, the province is also hiring 76 community health representative positions that will support culturally-safe contact tracing efforts within First Nations communities. Funding for those positions to be provided by B.C.’s Ministry of Health through the First Nations Health Authority.