Starting next week, anyone in the province of Alberta who wants to be tested for COVID-19 can be, regardless of whether they have symptoms.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, made the announcement Friday afternoon.
“In preparation for Stage 2 of our relaunch, now is an opportune time to expand our testing to get a full understanding of the presence of COVID-19 in our population,” she said.
Effective immediately, Albertans can complete the online assessment for an appointment to be tested. Testing is already being offered to asymptomatic Calgarians and will be available to the rest of Alberta starting next week.
The testing will give the province a “really good understanding” of where the presence is in communities as the current testing strategy has been focused on people with the highest risk of exposure.
“This will help provide data to further understand the impacts of moving to Stage 2 of Alberta’s relaunch strategy,” Hinshaw said.
“Expanded testing will also help us understand where there might be undetected positive cases, and therefore prevent further spread of the virus.”
Priority will still be given to those with symptoms and those with close contact to a known COVID-19 case, Hinshaw said.
There is no limit on the number of times people can be tested.
After suspending its season in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, the National Hockey League is hoping to resume play this summer and Edmonton is one of the cities vying to be a hub for the league if it resumes play. Part of the NHL’s plan to begin playing again involves players being tested often and there have been concerns that players would be able to jump the line for tests.
“There is no difference between the access Albertans have for testing in the next several weeks with access the NHL may have,” Hinshaw said. “However, I want to reiterate that the access that was being planned for the NHL was through private pay options, and so there was never intended to be a differential public access to testing for any group.”
Since testing began, Hinshaw said Alberta has performed between 2,000 and 4,000 tests per day. As of Friday, more than 250,000 tests had been completed.
On Friday, from 3,754 new tests, there were 24 confirmed new cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 616 active cases. There are currently 55 people in hospital, with four of those people admitted to ICUs.
No new COVID-19 deaths were reported on Friday. To date, 143 Albertans have died of COVID-19, according to Alberta Health. A total of 6,218 people have recovered.
Hinshaw also announced that a number of outbreaks across the province have been declared over. These include Manoir du Lac and the Horizon work camp.
“I want to acknowledge the work of local teams in stopping these outbreaks and, in particular, want to note that using lessons learned from Kearl Lake and with significant effort from the company, the Horizon camp outbreak was kept to only five cases.”
Hinshaw also announced Calgary and Brooks will be able to move forward to the second part of the Stage 1 reopening effective Monday.
As of Friday afternoon, 195,074 people had registered for the ABTraceTogether app, according to Alberta Health. The voluntary app is a tool the province is using for contact tracing.