Alberta moves to provincewide COVID-19 testing available to all — symptoms or not

Asymptomatic testing for the novel coronavirus will begin immediately for any Albertan who wants it, Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced Friday.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw reports 24 new cases Friday, no new deaths

Dr. Deena Hinshaw addresses Albertans about the COVID-19 outbreak. (Art Raham/CBC)

Asymptomatic testing for the novel coronavirus will begin immediately for any Albertan who wants it, Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced Friday.

The move is in preparation for Stage 2 of the province's relaunch, expected to take place in mid June, Hinshaw said at a news conference.

"Now is an opportune time to expand testing to get a full understanding of the presence of COVID-19 in our population," Hinshaw said.

"Expanded testing will ... help us understand where there might be undetected positive cases and therefore prevent further spread of the virus.

Albertans without symptoms of illness can arrange testing by going online, completing an assessment tool and booking an appointment, she said.

Anyone can be tested as often as they like, Hinshaw said.

"There's no restriction on the frequency with which people can access testing, so that is not something that would limit people's access," she said. "The recommendation would be that testing should never be used as a replacement for public health measures."

The date of Stage 2 will be discussed next week, Hinshaw said. 

"I said before given the low case numbers — really encouraging results from Stage 1 relaunch — that we are considering whether or not we can advance the date of Stage 2.

An increase in hospitalizations over the last few days is a concern, Hinshaw said. 

"Hospitalizations are a function not only of our total cases but also of who is exposed and is infected with the virus so those who are older, have medical conditions, are at higher risk of having more severe illness and needing hospital care.

"It's something we're watching very closely, but at this point, we haven't seen an uptick in our total number of cases.

"We'll continue to watch both total cases and hospitalizations very closely, but at this point, I don't anticipate what's happened these last few days would change our discussions regarding relaunch."

Latest numbers

Alberta reported no new deaths from COVID-19 Friday, and 24 new cases of the respiratory disease.

There are 616 active cases in province, with 55 people in hospital, four of them in intensive care.

The provincial COVID-19 death toll remains at 143, while 6,220 people have recovered.

Hinshaw also announced the final part of Stage 1 of the relaunch will begin Monday in Calgary and Brooks, two cities hit hard by the virus.

"Albertans in these two cities have been patient as we took a measured, phased approach to their relaunch," Hinshaw said. 

"I would like to congratulate residents in these cities on the downward trends in their numbers, which has not been seen in most places around the world where relaunch has happened."

The majority of active cases of COVID-19 continue to be located in the Calgary zone. Here's a regional breakdown of cases:

  • Calgary zone: 483 active cases, 4,263 recovered
  • Edmonton zone: 55 active cases, 463 recovered  
  • South zone: 49 active cases, 1,177 recovered  
  • North zone: 25 active cases, 201 recovered
  • Central zone: 2 active cases, 96 recovered
  • Unknown: 2 active cases, 20 recovered

Day camps and summer schools in Calgary and Brooks will be able to open Monday with occupancy limits, while places of worship may resume in-person services for up to 50 people, with precautions to limit the potential spread of infection. 

Premier Jason Kenney announced this week the province's state of public health emergency, in place since March 17, will be allowed to lapse on June 15.

Declaring the emergency gave the provincial cabinet many new powers, including the ability to limit the size of public gatherings and require people to self-isolate.

"We don't need the declaration of a public health emergency to protect people from COVID," Hinshaw said. "We will still be able to ... respond to COVID-19 and protect Albertans. The emergency really is a measure that allows a significant and rapid response, but if that measure is ended ... we do have other tools we can use."

The next update with Hinshaw is scheduled for Monday, June 1. 


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