Calgary

Calgary zone sees 'unprecedented' spike in requests for COVID-19 test

The number of people requesting a COVID-19 test in the Calgary zone spiked to a new high this week. On Monday, July 13, Alberta Health Services reported an "unprecedented" 6,400 online referrals, following a week of higher than normal online requests.

AHS cites an 'unprecedented' 6,400 online referrals, long wait times for appointments

Alberta Health Services says it's adding staff, extending testing hours and directing some people to head outside the city for testing, in an attempt to keep on top of a sudden demand for COVID-19 testing. (Helen Pike/CBC)

The number of people requesting a COVID-19 test in the Calgary zone spiked to a new high this week.

On Monday,  Alberta Health Services reported an "unprecedented" 6,400 online referrals, following a week of higher than normal online requests.

It means some people are waiting days to get an appointment.

Meghan Anderson is one of them. She's planning an isolated getaway in Saskatchewan and wanted to be prudent by getting tested.

Last week she went to the online portal to request an appointment for a COVID-19 test.

She was told to wait for a call. She said it`s been days and she hasn't heard back from AHS.

"I went to the walk-in clinic that they are offering testing at but I was informed that it was a five-hour wait at the time," she said. "So, I did not have five hours, so I left."

Anderson isn't the only one being told to wait.

AHS says it's received an average of more than 4,000 online testing referrals per day over the past week — hitting an unprecedented high on Monday.

The solution is adding staff, extending testing hours and directing some people to head outside the city for testing, AHS said.

Wait times for COVID-19 tests have increased dramatically in the past week, with AHS reporting a spike in requests as well as long lineups. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Dr. Adam Vyse practises in High River where some Calgarians are being referred. He doesn't think travelling for testing is an issue as long as people are careful.

"If you're driving in your vehicle and we're doing drive-by swabs I'm not sure that it matters where the drive-by swab is from, but from a COVID transmission point of view," said Vyse. "So coming to High River I don't think it's a public safety thing at all. If people are having symptoms and they need to test then obviously they need to be quarantining or isolating in their home.

"So if they're coming to High River and then going for coffee with symptoms that's a big problem."

Vyse said testing is a key part of managing the virus. He's confident AHS will be able to adapt to the increase in demand.

"Obviously we're going to have to work out some kinks on how to streamline the process," he said.

"But my experience with Alberta Health Services with our outbreak in High River is that once the need was really identified they were really adaptable and got things set up here to get really high capacity testing started. So I'm quite confident that we have the capability."

AHS says if you're waiting for a call back, be patient and refrain from calling 8-1-1.

It also says by early next week Albertans will be able to choose from a list of assessment centres within 75 kilometres from their postal code.

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