(Premier John Horgan, Minister Adrian Dix, Dr. Bonnie Henry/BC Gov Flickr)

B.C. is preparing for a potential surge in COVID-19 cases by hiring more health care professionals to increase contact tracing across the province this fall.

In an announcement Wednesday, Premier John Horgan says the province is hiring 500 temporary health care professionals to increase the capacity to trace contacts of those who have contracted COVID-19.

These workers will include recent graduates and retired nurses, and will be hired through the Provincial Health Services Authority in collaboration with individual health regions.

While the Premier commended the federal government for developing a contact tracing app, he added that “nothing replaces person to person contact”.

These 500 professionals will be joining existing public health teams who have been individually following up with COVID-19 patients to find out who they have been in contact with and the places they have visited to assess risks of exposure.

B.C. residents are urged to check the BC CDC website for all public alerts about possible exposures to the virus.

Those who may have been exposed are asked to monitor their symptoms, reduce the number of contacts they have, and call 811 to get tested for the virus if they do develop symptoms.

According to Dr. Henry, the number of contacts that each individual has had is starting to increase over the past few weeks as pandemic restrictions have been loosened in B.C. which is cause for concern.

However she says B.C. has been “holding our own” and has thus far been able to get in touch with 98 per cent of people who are close contacts of cases across the province and are not seeing too many unlinked cases.

The 500 extra contact tracing workers will be employed from September 2020 until March 2021.