Growing number of local volunteers being trained to provide emergency contact tracing for pandemic

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MANITOULIN – Hopefully it won’t be necessary, but if there was an outbreak of COVID-19 that reached concerning levels on Manitoulin Island, a growing group of volunteers who have completed or are undergoing training will be ready to assist health agencies in providing emergency contact tracing, says a member of the Manitoulin health leadership committee.

“There is a group of (Manitoulin) Island volunteers who are undergoing training in contact tracing,” Dr. Maurianne Reade told the Recorder last weekend. “The contract tracing volunteers would be on hand, in case there is a big outbreak of COVID-19 on the Island. Hopefully, it will never come to that, but when we see what has taken place in cities like Toronto and Edmonton, public health agencies can be overwhelmed.”

“Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD) is interested in the proposal, and MFR (Manitoulin Family Resources) has taken on the role of the umbrella organization,” said Dr. Reade. She pointed out among those individual volunteers taking part include, for example, Sandra Pennie of the Assiginack Family Health Team and Margaret Stringer, a trustee on the Rainbow District School Board (RDSB). Dr. Stephen Cooper first brought the concept forward locally and a list of people to help request volunteers was developed. 

“This is a great community initiative,” stated Dr. Read. “Hopefully we will never be in the position that we have to put this in place, but if an outbreak does take place and assistance is needed there is a group of volunteers that if requested, could step in right away to help out because they will already be trained. Some of these individuals have already completed the necessary training.” 

Dr. Reade pointed out that at least nine volunteers have come forward so far, along with Noojmowin Teg Health Centre and other health services and hospitals that would help out PHSD as well. If concurrent outbreaks occur in the public health service’s area, additional trained volunteers would be able to provide the emergency contact tracing support for all groups.

“It is a case of hoping for the best and preparing for the worst,” said Dr. Reade. 

Dr. Reade said that, for instance, once long-term care and nursing home residents and staff and many other health field area workers and patients are vaccinated, mass general public clinics will be held in various areas in the coming months. However, she stressed there will be a short lead-up time for the clinics to be given notice before vaccines will become available. Therefore, some clinics may have to rebook patients’ appointments. “The clinics may receive, say, as little as a day’s notice that the vaccines will be arriving. People need to be prepared. It is so important for people to remain patient through all of this. And with a new variant of the virus having been reported in the Sudbury area, which is even more highly transmissible, it is more important than ever that people social distance, stay at home and wear masks,” said Dr. Reade. She added that, “it was fantastic that the residents of Wikwemikong Nursing Home and staff received their vaccinations earlier this month.”