Montreal public health asks post-secondary schools to help with COVID-19 contact tracing

Public health investigators will continue checking close contacts quickly, a spokesperson says. However, post-secondary officials are asked to identify and notify low-risk contacts of what the next steps are in the coming 14 days.

Agency director says it's a temporary solution until more investigators are hired and trained

People lineup at a COVID-19 testing clinic Wednesday. Cases are on the rise in Montreal. (The Canadian Press)

Montreal public health is asking post-secondary school administrations to help with COVID-19 contact tracing until more investigators can be hired and trained.

Contact tracing is a system used to identify those who may have caught COVID-19 from someone who tested positive.

Eric Forest, a spokesperson for the agency, says public health investigators will continue checking close contacts quickly.

However, post-secondary officials are asked to identify and notify low-risk contacts that they are not expected to isolate or go for testing, but instead monitor for symptoms over a period of 14 days.

Faced with the rapid rise in cases of COVID-19, Forest said in an email, "we are in a period of increased hiring and training of investigators in order to be more efficient in responding to the demands of educational settings."

In a letter sent to administrators by Montreal Public Health Director Dr. Mylène Drouin, she says this is a temporary solution until Sept. 24 at the latest. 

From there, public health can resume offering "you better support in the future." 

"To reassure your community, know that the majority of moderate-risk contacts are already identified by public health investigators who call cases upon receipt of a positive test," she says in the letter.

"There is currently no wait for this initial investigation, which will take place within 48 hours."

Drouin says the approach for the school year will judge the majority of contacts in post-secondary schools to be low-risk because masks are worn, there is good vaccination coverage and health measures are in place.

Currently, there are seven outbreaks and 19 related cases in Montreal universities and CEGEPs, Forest says.

 "We are confident that the expertise jointly developed by our two networks will again be able to make a difference to control transmission in educational settings while allowing students to experience a face-to-face school year," Drouin says in the letter.


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