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Fraser Health reveals challenges with COVID-19 contact tracing

FILE -- A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Summary

Fraser Health's CEO says contact tracers are encountering barriers including people not picking up the phone

Contact tracers are also encountering language barriers and incorrect phone numbers in the region

SURREY (NEWS 1130) – Contact tracing is a critical tool in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Done quickly, it alerts people of potential exposure and lets them know they must be tested as soon as possible.

However, Fraser Health CEO Dr. Victoria Lee says about a quarter of the people who have been called don’t answer their phones.

“I think there is some fear and stigma associated with being diagnosed with COVID-19. So I’d like to take the opportunity to encourage everybody to pick up their phones, even if it’s an unknown number,” she notes.

She also points out often there are language barriers to surmount, and sometimes the phone numbers they have are incorrect.

She says knocking on doors is not an option when calling doesn’t work.

“We don’t have detailed information in terms of full addresses, so we try to phone multiple times.”

RELATED: B.C. hiring 500 contact tracers to stop spread of COVID-19

She stresses that people who refuse to answer their phone, and are still going about their daily lives knowing they could be infecting others could face repercussions.

“If people are not following public health orders in terms of isolation, we do have an option of enforcement.”

She says the number of people who conduct contact tracing is rapidly increasing. The health authority has hired 220 extra people to do the often-times complicated work.

Once a lab-confirmed test comes back positive, the individual is contacted, and it’s the job of the contact tracers to get in touch with others who might have been exposed. Lee says it’s a process that could take hours or days.