January 15, 2021
The Ontario government has hired more case managers and contact tracers, building the provincial workforce to 1,600 by February 15, 2021. Along with staff who work in or have been redeployed within public health units, this support brings the total number of case and contact tracers in the province to nearly 5,600 staff. These people are vital in helping to isolate new cases of COVID-19 and stopping the spread of the virus in communities across Ontario. "Our government continues to use every resource at its disposal to fight COVID-19 and keep Ontarians safe," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "By expanding our case and contact management capacity, we are significantly boosting our ability to respond to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the province. We are immensely grateful to our public health units and this provincial workforce, who are all working to keep Ontarians safe and healthy and stop the spread of this deadly virus." As part of its Fall Preparedness Plan, the province has hired over 700 contact tracers and case managers, in addition to the 600 Statistics Canada employees that are assisting with contact follow-up. The province is onboarding an additional 300 case managers in the coming weeks - bringing the provincial workforce to 1,600 and the total number of case and contact management staff across Ontario to approximately 5,600. "Ontario's public health system continues to take extraordinary efforts to contain COVID-19," said Dr. David Williams, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health. "Public health units have shown incredible commitment and dedication to protecting our health during this challenging time. We will continue to work closely with them and support the important services they provide to Ontarians." Due to high rates of transmission in Toronto, the Ministry of Health is currently providing 180 case managers and contact tracers to support Toronto Public Health, with plans to increase the number up to 280 in the next few weeks. The provincial workforce also assists 12 public health units across Ontario, providing extensive supports to Windsor-Essex, Ottawa, Hamilton, Halton, Toronto, Waterloo, Peel and York. As new staff are onboarded, they will be made available to additional health units. Public health units are starting to use technology to reach cases and contacts faster so that people can get into isolation as quickly as possible and limit the spread, including a new, secure "Virtual Assistant" tool. Through a secure online form, the Virtual Assistant uses text messages to connect health care workers with individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been identified as close contacts. The text messages link to safe and secure web-based forms with questions that help case managers assess symptoms and general health, and identify close contacts. The Virtual Assistant also provides important information to individuals such as guidance on how to self-isolate. This Virtual Assistant tool is available to all public health units and provincial workforce staff that are supporting public health units. Currently, this new tool is being adopted by a number of public health units including Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Waterloo and York, and will soon be used across the province. To aid the success of the province's case managers, contact tracers and health care workers, it is vital that all Ontarians continue to play their part by following public health measures. It is also critically important that individuals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 provide all history of contacts and contact information to their public health unit. This remains the best way to control the spread of the virus and to keep our communities safe from COVID-19.
On January 12, 2021, the Ontario government declared a second provincial emergency under s 7.0.1 (1) the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. and subsequently issued a stay-at-home order requiring everyone to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes including going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for work. The stay at home order applies as of Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 12:01 a.m.
The latest modelling projects ICU occupancy to be as high as 1,000 beds by early February in the most severe, but realistic scenarios, with deaths expected to double from 50 to 100 deaths per day between now and the end of February.
Over 174,000 doses have been administered across the province, including over 53,000 vaccinations administered to health care workers in long-term care homes and retirement homes, over 89,000 vaccinations administered to health care workers and over 21,000 vaccinations administered to residents. An additional 18,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine have been administered since December 31, 2020.
All 34 public health units are now using the new Public Health Case and Contact Management (CCM) Solution system.
Public health units may reach out via text to people who are at risk of exposure or who have tested positive to COVID-19.
Please check your phone regularly for messages from your local public health unit or Ministry of Health with a link to provide information through a secure, personalized online form.
By taking the time to use these text supports, you are helping public health keep you, your family, and your community safe. Public health officials will review the information and continue to monitor you and connect with you as needed.
Case and contact management plays a key role in preventing the spread of the virus. Case managers and contact tracers help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the community by investigating where an individual may have acquired the virus and preventing further spread.
To help everyone stay safe, download the COVID Alert app. It is free to use and is available from the Apple and Google Play app stores. This app lets users know if they may have been exposed to the others who are infected with the virus.
Visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect the people of Ontario from COVID-19.