Toronto Public Health suspends some contact tracing due to ‘high level’ of coronavirus cases

Toronto Public Health has suspended contact tracing for some coronavirus cases as the city struggles with a “high level” of infections.

Contact tracing, which is when public health units reach out to close contacts of a confirmed coronavirus case to warn them of potential exposure and in turn take appropriate action, is viewed by experts as a key to combatting virus spread.

“As part of the usual course of outbreak management, when cases reach a high level, public health must make a strategic shift and temporarily re-prioritize case and contact management to focus on the highest-risk scenarios,” a TPH spokesperson said in a statement Saturday.

Read more: Coronavirus: Toronto Public Health calls for restricting indoor dining, indoor gym classes

Under the current policy, the team at TPH will focus on contacting those who test positive for coronavirus, assess the person’s ability to self-isolate, assess signs and symptoms and, most notably, “provide instructions to the person to notify their high-risk contacts.”

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“We will also continue to investigate and respond to outbreaks in hospital, long-term care, retirement home, shelter, school, and child care settings and there are no changes to the policies and procedures for these settings,” the TPH statement notes.

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“This is a temporary measure in response to very high case counts.”

TPH has almost 700 people dedicated to case and contact management.

On Friday, Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s medical officer of health, called on the province to implement new restrictions in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19.

De Villa called for indoor dining and indoor gym classes to be temporarily prohibited, among other measures.

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“With rapid adoption of these public health measures, this will allow us to return as quickly as possible to our case and contact management process,” the TPH statement read.

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“When cases go down, we will return to the previous approach.”

On Friday, de Villa mentioned that the city was taking a new approach to case and contact management to focus on high-risk scenarios, but the exact meaning of that shift was not publicly clear until a Globe and Mail report on Saturday.

Global News has reached out to Premier Doug Ford’s office and the Ministry of Health for comment.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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