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Albertans without symptoms can soon get COVID-19 tests at 20 pharmacies

Asymptomatic Albertans will be able to get COVID-19 testing in community pharmacies
Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro announces asymptomatic testing at community pharmacies in the province.

Editor’s note: This story originally stated four of the people hospitalized with COVID-19 are in their 30s. Those people are actually under the age of 30. This story has been updated with the correct information.

In an effort to make getting tested for COVID-19 even easier, Alberta Health will be expanding testing to 20 community pharmacies.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro made the announcement at Thursday’s COVID-19 update.

“Since day one, testing has been a cornerstone of our pandemic response.”

The testing option will be available mostly in Edmonton and Calgary “in the coming days,” Shandro said. It will then be implemented in more Alberta pharmacies outside those cities.

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“This is a step that just makes sense,” Shandro said. “Pharmacists are highly trained health professionals and pharmacies support the health of residents in their communities every day.”

The test in pharmacies will consist of a throat swab that will be sent for analysis. Shandro said those participating pharmacies will receive specialized training and will be expected to follow strict protocols.

“With pharmacists starting to perform the testing, this means people have options closer to home,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.

32 COVID-19 cases confirmed at Calgary condominium
32 COVID-19 cases confirmed at Calgary condominium

Anyone with symptoms should not go to their pharmacist for a swab. They should call 811 or take the online assessment. Health officials stressed people stay home if they’re feeling unwell.

To date, Alberta has conducted more than 415,000 COVID-19 tests.

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“Whether you have symptoms or not, please get tested,” Shandro said. “It’s a simple but important way for Albertans to protect themselves and others.”

Read more: Thousands of Edmontonians continue to book appointments for COVID-19 testing

Daily numbers

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On Thursday, Hinshaw announced there were an additional 26 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alberta as well as an additional death.

The death was a man in his 80s who was linked to the current outbreak on a unit at the Misericorida Community Hospital in Edmonton.

“My colleagues have assured me that outbreak measures are in place and aggressive testing is underway,” Hinshaw said of that outbreak.

Alberta COVID-19 death related to outbreak at Misericordia hospital
Alberta COVID-19 death related to outbreak at Misericordia hospital

There are now 38 people in hospital with COVID-19, eight of whom are in the ICU.

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The number of people hospitalized in Alberta increased slightly from the day before and Hinshaw revealed four of the people in hospital in Edmonton are under the age of 30.

“These patients do not have any underlying health conditions and yet, they are very sick. This is another reminder that COVID-19 does not discriminate.”

Read more: Some Edmonton restaurants reopen after briefly closing due to COVID-19 cases

Right now, the average age of people with active COVID-19 cases in Alberta is 39.

“No one is immune,” Hinshaw said.

Alberta’s top doctor still recommends staying within province despite B.C. reopening
Alberta’s top doctor still recommends staying within province despite B.C. reopening

She added this is an important reminder for Albertans as Canada Day approaches.

“I know many people are tired of following health measures and physical distancing, particularly as the risk of severe outcomes is lower for those under 60 years of age. However, a lower risk does not mean there is no risk at all,” she said.

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“COVID-19 loves a party, so we can’t let our guard down.”

As Albertans prepare to celebrate Canada Day, Hinshaw recommends celebrating with members of your household or cohort and to take the celebration outside.

Dr. Hinshaw offers advice for Canada Day amid COVID-19 pandemic
Dr. Hinshaw offers advice for Canada Day amid COVID-19 pandemic

She also recommends avoiding having a barbeque or a potluck or sharing serving utensils.

“This year it’s a good idea for everyone to bring their own food and drinks. And if anyone disagrees with that, you can blame me for that recommendation.”

Read more: Alberta beef plants nearly back to full capacity after COVID-19 outbreaks, but cattle backlog remains

As always, Hinshaw recommends if anyone experiences symptoms after a Canada Day event – or any other time – they must self-isolate and fill out the online assessment and go for testing.

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