Alberta Opposition calls for more COVID-19 contact tracers as case numbers rise
EDMONTON -- Alberta's Opposition leader says the government needs to sharply ramp up the number of contact tracers if it wants to get a handle on the rising number of COVID-19 cases.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley says a recent Harvard University study recommends a ratio of tracers to population that would mean about 1,300 tracers for Alberta.
Alberta has about 800 tracers, and chief medical health officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw says more are being recruited.
It's one of several Notley recommendations to steady the number of COVID cases and reduce the risk of a large-scale economic lockdown.
Alberta recorded more than 500 new cases a day over the weekend, and Hinshaw has directed social gatherings in Edmonton and Calgary be limited to no more than 15 people.
Notley is also calling for the province to introduce a COVID-19 risk index to give businesses an opportunity to see what health measures may be triggered by future case counts and plan accordingly.
“We don't want to see closures. We don't want to see jobs impacted,” Notley told a news conference Tuesday.
“If we had more contact tracers, and if we were able to have faster turnaround on testing, we'd have a better idea of where to take targeted action.
“Right now, I would say, quite frankly, the indication that I get is that to some degree we're flying a bit blind.”
In an email to CTV News Edmonton, Steve Buick, the press secretary to the health minister, pushed back against the opposition's comments and recommendations.
Buick said the UCP government has gone from 50 to 800 contact tracers since the pandemic began, and will continue to hire more.
He also said: "We have the most transparent reporting in Canada, including a map that shows risk levels and two live updates a week from our Chief Medical Officer of Health. The NDP seem to want automatic, wide-ranging restrictions so let me be clear, we will continue to use targeted restrictions based on the evidence, we will not apply a one-size-fits-all solution to a complex problem."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2020