Posted on May 25, 2020

This article was written by FNHA

Public Health Processes

Regardless of where a person lives in British Columbia, Regional Health Authority (RHA) Public Health staff members are made aware when a test comes back positive for COVID-19. Those public health officials have the responsibility of preventing the spread of disease by identifying those who are sick (cases) and those who were around them when they were getting sick (contacts). This is known as contact tracing. Cases and contacts are given instructions as to how to prevent spreading the disease further. For example, they will be required to stay home. Contact tracing is an effective strategy for containing illness and has been used for hundreds of years.

In addition to direct case management and contact-tracing, public health also gives advice related to community prevention. The most successful and effective strategies to prevent spread of the virus are:

  • Stay home as much as possible
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Keep physical distance (at least two meters or six feet) between you and people who do not live in your house
  • Wash your hands often, with soap, for 20 seconds, and try not to touch your face
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow
  • You may choose to wear a cloth mask when going out

Wearing a mask protects others from small droplets that can come out of your mouth when you talk, cough or sneeze, and may reduce the spread of illness. Information on when and how to make and wear a mask, go here.

By using these community prevention steps to protect yourself and others, you are doing the very best to keep your community healthy.

The Role of Nurses

1. Regional Health Authority (RHA) Medical Health Officers (MHO) receive notification of all positive lab test results for COVID-19 and other communicable diseases.

It is the job of the Regional Health Authority (RHA) nurses to call people who have tested positive for COVID-19. Nurses working within your community may help the RHA nurses – they will talk together and decide what each of them will do.

The role of the FNHA Communicable Disease (CD) team is to help the nurse in your community gain the skills and processes they need to follow-up any cases and contacts. If your community needs additional supports or supplies the FNHA regional nursing staff can support your nurse to get these items.

2. When people test positive for COVID-19 they will be told to stay at home for a certain number of days. This means not going out and not having other people come into the house. If a person cannot safely stay at home for this amount of time, they should contact their community leaders or FNHA Health Benefits to get support finding a safe place to stay.

If there are other people living in the home who have been there while the person was sick, they will need to stay at home too. The number of days they have to stay at home will be different for different people. The nurse decides the number of days based on the information they gather.

Most people with COVID-19 do not need to be hospitalized and will get better on their own. People cannot spread the disease once their fever has stopped and 10 days has passed. A person with COVID-19 is no longer infectious 10 days following the end of their fever. People may have a dry cough for some time after this. Depending on the situation, the nurse may check in with them daily to see how they are doing.

3. When the nurse contacts a person to tell them about their positive COVID-19 test, they will ask  for the names of the people they have been around and the places they have visited during the time they were getting sick. When the nurse has these names, these people will be called and told to stay home for a certain number of days. The amount of time could be different for different people. The nurse decides upon the number of days based on the information they gather from talking to both the person who is sick and the person who was around them.

4. People who are told to stay at home will be called by a nurse to make sure things are okay and that they aren't getting sick. They will be asked to keep a record of any symptoms to see if they are becoming ill. Once all the number of days has passed and they don't become sick, they can leave their house. They still need to stay home as much as possible and keep distance between themselves and other people when they are out shopping for groceries or doing other essential errands like getting medicine – just like the rest of us. If the person becomes sick, they will be assessed for COVID-19. They will have to stay home for at least 10 days from when they got sick. (see steps above)

Why Don't Nurses Tell Us Who Has COVID-19 In Our Community?

There are two reasons for this:

1. Nurses are not permitted to discuss the health information about a person with people who are not directly involved in providing medical care. This is to protect the rights of the person who is sick. If a person isn't sure that their health information will be kept private they may be less willing to get tested for COVID-19.

2. Knowing the name of the person who is sick will not help you prevent illness in the community and may cause that person mental and emotional harm. It is important that we all play our part in the process. Nurses will follow up with the people who need to be tested and can help you give advice to community members who are worried about being exposed to COVID-19. Unfortunately, it is not possible to identify everyone with the virus as some people have only very mild symptoms or possibly no symptoms at all.

What do to if you have experienced flu-like or respiratory symptoms for 24 hours or more:

  • On weekdays between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm, call the Splatsin Health Centre at (250) 838-9538 and speak to a Nurse.
  • On evenings and weekends, call HealthLink BC at 811 or use the online self-assessment tool.