Alberta’s provincial laboratories are in the “final stages” of validating a number of COVID-19 antibody tests, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Wednesday.
Also known as serology testing, the method detects the presence of antibodies in a person’s blood.
“A positive test means someone contracted COVID-19 at a point in the past, even if they have now recovered,” Hinshaw said.
However, she warned that there is still not enough conclusive research on whether a person who has recovered from COVID-19 is immune afterwards.
“Not all antibodies protect from reinfection, and antibody levels can drop over time,” Hinshaw said. “There is not enough evidence to conclusively determine if a person who previously contracted COVID-19 would subsequently be immune.”
“Until we have this evidence, it is not possible to determine who is immune and for how long.”
She added that currently, as the Alberta still has active and new cases being reported, health officials are still focused on stopping the spread.
“There are many aspects to preventing the spread of COVID-19. We continue to study the virus and learn how it affects people,” Hinshaw said.
She added that the labs in Alberta have already worked with national labs to validate specific antibody tests.
“We now need to work on procurement of the test kits, and as you can imagine, across the world there’s quite a high demand for the test kits. So that’s something that’s underway right now,” Hinshaw said.
Alberta officials are also working with other provinces to ensure there is “consistency across the country” in antibody testing methods, Hinshaw said.
She also cautioned Albertans against using at-home COVID-19 antibody tests.
“These tests may not be accurate, and could produce false results, either false positives or false negatives,” she said.
Alberta reports two additional deaths
The province reported two additional deaths on Wednesday, both in the Calgary zone.
Both deaths were women in continuing care centres: one in her 90s at Extendicare Hillcrest and a woman in her 80s at Intercare Chinook Care Centre.
Hinshaw said that restrictions on visiting hospitals and long-term care centres remain in place, but officials are monitoring the situation and hope to give an update in the next few weeks.
“We all want to protect those in hospital and protect those in continuing care from infection,” she said, but acknowledged that the mental health of residents is important.
“It is a hardship to be separated from loved ones, especially for long periods of time.”
The total number of people who have died of COVID-19 now sits at 145, according to Alberta Health.
Forty-eight people are in hospital in the province with the disease, six of whom are in intensive care.
On Wednesday, there were 19 new cases reported in the province.
There are now 344 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, and 6,557 recoveries, Hinshaw said Wednesday.
“The total number of active cases continues to decline, and the increase in new cases in manageable.”
Regionally, the majority of them remain in the Calgary zone, with 255 active cases, meaning that zone has 74 per cent of the current totals.
There are now 45 active cases in Edmonton zone, 21 cases in South zone, 22 in North zone, and 21 in the South zone. There are no active cases in the Central zone at this time.
Hinshaw reminded Albertans that anyone can now be tested and encouraged people to sign up for the testing through Alberta Health, and to continue following social distancing rules.
“Our best tools of defense right now remain staying home when feeling sick, maintaining physical distance when we go out, and wearing a mask in crowded spaces, frequently washing our hands and making sure that we support each other when taking these steps,” she said.