Department of Human Services

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Wednesday 15 December 2021 - second edition

Close contacts working in high-risk settings

Dear sector colleagues,

DHS has been working closely with SA Health’s Communicable Disease Control Branch (CDCB) to clarify restrictions as they apply to vaccinated disability support workers who are identified as close contacts and must quarantine for 7 days.

After receiving a negative COVID result for their day 6 test, a vaccinated close contact can leave quarantine after 7 days. One of the conditions imposed on a vaccinated close contact is that from days 8 to 14, they must not enter a high-risk setting.

We have clarified with the CDCB that vaccinated close contacts who are carers or disability support workers can return to work in a high risk setting on days 8 to 14 (provided they have shown evidence of a negative test result on day 6) with additional precautions.

Please note – the only high risk setting that a vaccinated close contact may enter on days 8 to 14 is their workplace. Close contacts must still not enter any other high risk setting and should avoid contact with vulnerable populations if it is unrelated to their work.

As such, the disability support workers or carers who are close contacts can still provide care to their clients with disability as it is part of their work.

These workers should only work with their regular clients during this time, and not take on new shifts with new clients.

This will enable providers to have greater certainty in their workforce planning and rostering.

Whilst these measures are in place, it is imperative that organisations ensure that they have business continuity plans and risk mitigation measures in place, particularly for vulnerable client groups.

Where support workers are working with especially vulnerable clients, a risk assessment may need to be undertaken by the organisation in conjunction with doctors from the Communicable Disease Control Branch as to whether it is appropriate for the close contact to return to work on days 8 to 14. Client or support worker tests positive

The Communicable Disease Control Branch is in the process of developing outbreak plans for a number of industries and sectors. An outbreak plan for disability congregate living will be prepared.

Whilst we await this plan, there are a number of steps we encourage you to take to ensure the escalation of response in the event that one of your support workers or clients tests positive to COVID.

  • Disability support workers who are being tested for COVID should advise the clinician taking their swab that they are a disability support worker and provide the name and location / or general contact details for the organisation they work for. They should also indicate if they care for particularly vulnerable clients and request an expedited test due to the nature of their work.
  • When taking clients to be tested, please advise the clinician that they are a client under your care who receives disability support services and advise if they live in a congregate living setting. Ensure that the contact details for SMS notification go to an appropriate point of contact such as a carer or guardian. Please request expedited testing.
  • If you haven't received a test result within 12 hours, you can contact the RAH Virology on 7074 1213 (SA Pathology tests).
  • Passing this information on to the clinicians at the time the PCR test is taken will flag that, should they test positive, a client / disability worker will need assessment and response from Communicable Disease Control Branch as to the next steps, and you should receive a call from the CDCB soon after the SMS alert of a positive result.
  • Providers should note that they may expect a call between 12 midnight and 5.00 am from the Communicable Disease Control Branch if that is when results come through from the laboratory. Alternatively, the automated positive case survey may be sent out by the Communicable Disease Control Branch in the interim before they follow up with a phone call (in the even of high case loads).
  • If you have not heard from the Communicable Disease Control Branch within 4 to 5 hours after the SMS notification of a positive result, please text (do not call) details of the client / support worker (full name, date of birth, and organisation name) and your name to the Lead – DHS COVID-19 Response on 0412 956 129 and we will facilitate a quick call back. Note that whilst this is not a 24-hour service, all follow ups for positive cases will be carried out as a priority.

Advice for use of matrices in managing contacts

The primary and community health care settings matrix is used for disability support worker contacts who care for clients living in their private homes/share houses/group homes in the community (that is, those not living in a residential care facility). Communicable Disease Control Branch would still be involved in managing the event given the vulnerability of the client population.

If the exposure occurs in a supported residential care facility (RACF) then it would be managed as an outbreak with Communicable Disease Control Branch involvement. The outbreak management would be similar to that for RACFs. Further information about the COVID-19 outbreak policy for RACFs can be found on the SA Health website.

Please continue to check the SA Health contact tracing and exposure locations every day. The SA Health website is updated frequently, and you can easily sort locations by suburb, date added and health advice.

Further information about quarantine and testing requirements for casual and close contacts can be found on SA Health’s contact tracing website.

If you have any questions or concerns, I encourage you to contact DHS’s COVID-19 Response team at  DHSCOVIDResponse@sa.gov.au 

Best regards,

Lois Boswell
Chief Executive

Read the NGO Newsletter online - 15 December 2021 (second edition)

Page last updated : 15 Dec 2021

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