CALGARY -- In the spring, when the pandemic was just taking hold in Alberta, there were only several dozen contract tracers at work.

Now, they number more than 800.

That's according to the latest statistics from Alberta Health Services, who say the expertise is more valuable than ever.

Contact tracing is the best way for front-line workers to track the spread of COVID-19 and provide all the help they can to the infected patient.

"The contact tracer – the case investigator who contacts them is often their biggest direct line into any of the extra services that may be available," said Angela Jacobs, a contact tracing manager with AHS.

"They can provide resources for people who have difficulty with all that isolation and quarantine at home. Making sure Albertans know how to access resources that will help them with food supply, money stability."

While helping isolated Albertans is one part of their job, finding out who they've been around while contagious is the larger part of their task. Jacobs says there are times where it's difficult to gather that information.

"Some individuals are scared. People are definitely not always expecting the diagnosis but they're scared because they don't know necessarily who they're talking to."

Health officials say while it's normal to be scared, it's also important for Albertans to provide as much information to AHS when a contact tracer calls.

"If we are not able to trace contacts and keep the virus from spreading, the impacts will continue to grow," said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, last week.

"If you are diagnosed with COVID, please don't turn any understandable anger against the contact tracers who are doing their job as part of a collective effort to maintain manageable levels of transmission."

Albertans can also help in the "collective effort" Hinshaw mentioned, by coming up with their own list of contacts as soon as they receive a positive test result.

Health officials say that will complete the contact tracing faster and prevent the spread of COVID-19 sooner.

(With files from Kathy Le)