January 15, 2021, the government outlined ongoing efforts to expand Ontario’s capacity for case and contact management, growing the provincial workforce to 1,600 employees by February 15.
The hiring of additional case managers and contact tracers will enable Ontario to more quickly isolate new cases and slow the spread of COVID-19. This effort builds on the province’s $1.376 billion commitment in the 2020 Fall Preparedness Plan to enhance testing and contact tracing.
In addition, Ontario launched consultations for Budget 2021 today and is asking Ontarians for input on how the government can continue to support families, workers, and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, while positioning the province for a strong economic recovery. Consultations will close on February 12. More information is available at Ontario.ca/budgetconsultation.
The government also opened applications for the new Ontario Small Business Support Grant today. The grant was first announced last month, and provides eligible small businesses with between $10,000 and $20,000. To be eligible, small businesses must have been required to close or restrict services as a result of the provincewide lockdown beginning December 26. Eligible businesses must also have fewer than 100 employees, and must have experienced at least a 20 percent revenue decline in April 2020, compared to April 2019. Businesses established since April 2019 are also eligible, provided they meet other criteria.
Expansion of Provincial Case and Contact Management Workforce
The Ontario government provided an update today on continuing efforts to bolster Ontario’s capacity for case and contact management, in order to more quickly identify new cases and slow the spread of COVID-19.
The province will be onboarding 300 case managers in the coming weeks, building on more than 700 contact tracers and case managers hired as part of the Fall Preparedness Plan. Including an additional 600 Statistics Canada employees that are assisting with contact follow-up, Ontario’s provincial case and contact management workforce will total 1,600 employees by February 15. The new case and contact management support will bring the total number of case and contact tracers in the province to nearly 5,600, which incudes staff who work in, or have been redeployed within public health units.
The provincial case and contact management workforce currently supports regions with high rates of COVID-19 transmission, including Halton, Hamilton, Ottawa, Peel, Toronto, Waterloo, Windsor-Essex, and York. As new employees are onboarded in the coming weeks, the Ministry of Health will provide an additional 100 case managers and contact tracers to support Toronto Public Health. New staff will also be made available to additional public health units.
Virtual Assistant Tool
Public health units are beginning to utilize a new Virtual Assistant tool to reach cases and contacts more quickly. This tool uses text messages to connect health care workers with individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been identified as close contacts. The text messages link to secure web-based questionnaires that will help case managers assess symptoms. The Virtual Assistant also provides individuals with guidance on how to self-isolate.
Use of the Virtual Assistant tool is currently being expanded across the province.