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Northern Health case and contact management: Then, now, and looking forward

Three people sit around a large board room table with a laptop in the foreground.
As part of her recent visit to Prince George, Dr. Bonnie Henry joined a virtual visit with the Northern Health case and contact management team to share her thanks. Over 100 people were able to join the session. Pictured: Dr. Henry sits with chief medical health officer Dr. Jong Kim and medical health officer Dr. Rakel Kling.

With the recent shift into Step 3 of BC’s Restart plan, the end of the tunnel feels near. For the Northern Health team who carried out case and contact management (CCM), a core function of public health during the pandemic, it’s been a whirlwind 18 months. The team faced incredible challenges yet accomplished so much as a small but mighty team.

From overwhelm to control

When the pandemic first hit in March 2020, the case load in the north was manageable. When cases started to increase exponentially in November 2020, the small CCM team was overwhelmed. Full contact tracing was scaled back in order to more quickly inform and support people who had tested positive for the virus. The team then focused on contact tracing for cases in settings with higher risk of spreading the virus or disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations, such as in schools and congregate living situations.

Continuously adjusting the process

As the pandemic continued through the winter months, the NH CCM team continuously pivoted and adjusted their processes and training to balance the case load and human resources required. Full contact tracing resumed in the spring of 2021 and more staff were brought on board to help the team. At one point, over 200 people were involved in the CCM work, with up to 70 people staffing CCM each day.

The impact of case and contact management

Case and contact management (CCM) is a key tool in decreasing the number of cases in the north and in making households, workplaces, and remote communities safer. CCM helps slow the spread of COVID-19 by ensuring cases and contacts know to isolate, what to do, and who to contact if they need help. Data gathered during phone calls with people who have tested positive for the virus gives important information to the public health team. This information is used to identify trends of concern and gives medical health officers, and other decision makers, information they can use to monitor disease levels and decide on appropriate actions. Thanks to the Northern Health team that carried out this work, we were able to help bend the curve in the North.

Scaling down

Looking back at the hurdles of the past 18 months, the team is proud of the CCM model that was developed. As cases decline in the region, the team is scaling down its operations to reflect the lower case load and redirect focus to COVID-19 immunizations. The team continues to follow up on all lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region, which have fortunately been much fewer in recent months.

While we don’t know what the future holds, we do have a fully scale-able CCM system that can adapt quickly to rising or falling case counts.

A thank you to all CCM staff

The public health leadership team is grateful to all the team members who supported CCM over the past year - from those who helped set the foundation for Northern Health’s CCM response in early 2020, to all who played a role over the past several months as we responded to the surge of COVID-19 cases across the North. Thank you for everything you have contributed to CCM and NH’s COVID-19 response!

More information on case and contact management