To help reduce call volumes to 811, Alberta Health Services has launched an online self-assessment tool to help people determine whether they should be tested for COVID-19.
The tool launched at 5 p.m. on Friday and includes a series of questions, including:
- Whether the person has travelled outside the country in the past 14 days
- Whether they’re experiencing symptoms like fever, cough, shortness of breath and a sore throat
- Whether they’re experiencing symptoms like severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, trouble waking up, confusion or lost consciousness
- Whether they’ve been in close contact with someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19
Depending on the answers to the questions, Albertans are advised to either call 911 because their symptoms need urgent attention, call 811 to speak with a nurse, or told they don’t need to be tested.
Those who are told they don’t need to be tested are encouraged to re-take the test again if they experience any COVID-19 symptoms.
If the assessment advises someone to call 811, they’re warned about the current high call volumes Health Link has been experiencing since Alberta saw its first confirmed case of the virus. They’re also encouraged to self-isolate until they get test results back.
“That means don’t go to any public places, stay at home and don’t have any visitors,” the website says. “Don’t share personal items like dishes, plates, utensils and towels and wash your hands often.”
Anyone who has a swab test done will get a call from AHS with their results and next steps, which could take up to four days.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said on Friday that Health Link has been receiving more than 6,300 calls a day and the wait times are long. The government has doubled 811 staff and more are being trained.
“We all want to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Shandro said in a news release.
“Identifying and isolating people infected with COVID-19 is a critical way to help stop the spread. This tool will help you decide whether you need a swab to determine if you have COVID-19, without leaving your home, which can help us further contain the spread.”
The government of Alberta also made changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act on Friday, extending from five days to 14, removing the requirement for people to provide a medical note for time off, and waiving the 90-day employment eligibility period.
Confused about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials say the risk is very low for Canadians, but they caution against travel to affected areas (a list can be found here). If you do travel to these places, they recommend you self-monitor to see whether you develop symptoms and if you do, to contact public health authorities.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.
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