COVID-19 testing available to asymptomatic Calgarians working outside the home for one week

Click to play video: 'Alberta to test asymptomatic citizens in the Calgary zone who work outside the home for 1 week' Alberta to test asymptomatic citizens in the Calgary zone who work outside the home for 1 week
Dr. Deena Hinshaw announces that Alberta will offer COVID-19 testing to citizens in the Calgary zone who work outside the home. – May 11, 2020

In an attempt to better understand the way COVID-19 is spreading in Alberta, and specifically the hot spot that is Calgary, Alberta Health Services is offering asymptomatic testing to residents who work outside the home.

Thanks to the province’s expanded testing capabilities, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said officials are able to test 1,000 asymptomatic people each day for one week, starting Monday.

READ MORE: 2 additional COVID-19 deaths in Alberta, Hinshaw ‘encouraged’ by fewer daily cases

“This week we will be offering extra testing in Calgary as we are still seeing higher case numbers there than the rest of the province,” Hinshaw said.

“While we don’t know how much asymptomatic spread may contribute to transmission in a population, we know it is possible.”

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Those not working from home and who show no symptoms, but are interested in getting tested, can sign up on the AHS online self-assessment tool.

“I encourage anyone in the Calgary zone who is interested to participate to go online and register for a test,” Hinshaw said, adding the appointments are first come, first served.

Click to play video: 'Alberta announces 47 new cases of COVID-19, 2 deaths on Monday' Alberta announces 47 new cases of COVID-19, 2 deaths on Monday
Alberta announces 47 new cases of COVID-19, 2 deaths on Monday – May 11, 2020

As of Monday, May 11, the province had a total of 6,300 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, 4,278 of them were in the Calgary zone. Of those, 3,131 have recovered.

READ MORE: Why is the Calgary zone such a hot spot for COVID-19?

The Calgary zone has also seen the highest number of the province’s 117 deaths, reporting 82 fatalities linked to COVID-19.

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“It is important to remember that testing people who aren’t sick just gives a point-in-time picture of whether they have the virus at a particular moment in time,” Hinshaw said.

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“It is possible, if someone has had an exposure, that they could test negative and go on to get sick later. ​However, offering testing to this group of people will give us more information about COVID-19 in Calgary at this point in time.”

Hinshaw said the number of daily tests is limited to 1,000 to ensure there’s still enough capacity to test those who are symptomatic, adding that testing sick people is still the province’s top priority when it comes to limiting spread of the virus.

Calgary zone outbreaks

Two of the province’s biggest outbreaks of COVID-19 have been in the Calgary zone, including those at the Cargill Meat Solutions plant in High River, and the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary.

READ MORE: OHS report finds COVID-19 investigation at Cargill High River plant did not include worker representation

As of Monday, there were 36 active cases of the novel coronavirus among employees at the Cargill facility, with 911 reported as having recovered from the illness.

Two people have died as a result of contracting the virus through the meat plant outbreak, the second one being reported on Monday. According to Hinshaw, the worker was hospitalized about a month ago.

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The Cargill plant was temporarily closed for two weeks due to the severity of the outbreak, and reopened amid controversy and outcry last week.

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