Calgary

Test everyone at Alberta long-term care homes for COVID-19, advocates argue

There are calls for Alberta to test everyone living and working in Alberta's nursing homes as they battle outbreaks of COVID-19.

'That's where people are dying, in those facilities'

Advocates are calling for COVID-19 testing of all people living and working in long-term care homes in Alberta. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

There are calls for Alberta to test everyone living and working in Alberta's nursing homes as they battle outbreaks of COVID-19.

Thirty of the province's 48 deaths have been in long-term care facilities, and there have been 214 cases confirmed in nearly two dozen nursing homes across the province.

David Cowling's brother, Donald, lives at Calgary's Clifton Manor, where 10 residents and six staff have tested positive.

"These are the most vulnerable people we have in our society and it is absolutely critical that those people, that the testing resources be applied there. That's where people are dying, in those facilities," he said.

Mike Conroy, CEO of the Brenda Strafford Foundation, which runs Clifton Manor, says that when the outbreak began, he asked health officials to test all residents and staff.

"It would identify those staff and residents that are positive and then we could take action, and I think it would have a beneficial impact in terms of future spread," he said.

But Alberta is testing only those with symptoms, even though the virus can be spread by people who don't appear to have symptoms.

Quebec announced last week it will test everyone living and working in long-term care.

Donna Wilson, who teaches nursing at the University of Alberta, is in favour of wider testing.

"If I was health minister today, I would ask that every single person … in every nursing home in Alberta and every staff person working in a nursing home be tested for COVID and in the future it should be once a week," she said.

But the province says negative results could give a false sense of security and any changes need to be planned carefully.

And Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr Deena Hinshaw, says testing everyone in long-term care would provide only a snapshot in time.

With files from Jennifer Lee

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