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Can Alberta businesses ask for proof of a negative COVID-19 test?

Can Alberta businesses ask for proof of negative COVID-19 test?
In an effort to keep members safe, a Calgary fitness studio is requesting proof of a negative COVID-19 test result from people who live in a nearby tower dealing with an outbreak. Adam MacVicar reports.

With businesses and fitness facilities across the province reopening in the second phase of Alberta’s economic relaunch strategy, strict health guidelines are being followed to ensure the safety of customers and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As health measures like physical distancing and extensive cleaning are implemented, some are raising the question of whether Alberta businesses can request proof of a customer’s negative COVID-19 test before delivering a service.

Read more: Coronavirus: What you can and can’t do during Phase 2 in Alberta

According to Alberta Health officials, businesses in the province cannot ask patrons for proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

“If an organization decides to collect customer information during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are advised to understand their authority to collect personal information and be able to cite their authority under Alberta’s Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA),” Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan said in a statement.

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“Under PIPA, an organization would not be able to request the collection of COVID[-19] test results as that would be beyond what is considered reasonable to provide the product or service.”

McMillan added that anyone with concerns can file a complaint with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Read more: Alberta confirms 37 new COVID-19 cases Friday; Edmonton sees largest active numbers

Crush Camp, a gym in Calgary’s East Village, instated a proof policy for negative tests, which members were informed of through an email on Friday.

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According to owner Emily Slaneff, the new policy was meant for clients who live at Verve, a nearby residential tower and the site of a COVID-19 outbreak with 34 total cases as of Friday.

“We had heard there were over 30 cases and so we took precautions to ensure that we were keeping our members safe and our staff safe,” Slaneff said. “Of course, with news like this, we knew there would be questions, and we just wanted to take the overly cautious and proactive approach.”

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

Slaneff said some people had been asked to leave classes, without penalty, as a result of the new policy.

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“Our members have been very responsible and very respectful, and we’ve also heard from members who don’t live in that building but who just appreciate that we’re being proactive and keeping everybody safe,” she said.

Later Friday, Global News spoke with Slaneff again, informing her of Alberta Health’s response.

She said the information the gym has received is changing rapidly, and the facility will follow provincial recommendations to keep staff and members safe.

Read more: Asymptomatic COVID-19 testing and what you should know

According to Alberta Health, there is little value in businesses asking for evidence that customers have tested negative for COVID-19.

“Any test only captures a snapshot in time,” McMillan said in a statement. “A COVID-19 test detects whether an individual is symptomatic with the virus at that moment. It does not prevent someone from contracting the virus in the future.”

Anybody who tests positive for COVID-19 is legally required to self-isolate and should not be outside their home, McMillan added.

Wanting proof of negative tests ‘not inconceivable’

Alberta daycares operate under a similar model, and keep records of a registered child’s pre-existing conditions.

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As per provincial guidelines, if a child shows symptoms of COVID-19, they must get tested for the virus and test negative before returning to the daycare.

Read more: Coronavirus tracing app not yet OK’d by privacy watchdog, but outside experts give thumbs up

“It’s not inconceivable that some businesses may want to do this. Or certain businesses, like a daycare, that it might even make sense for them to do it because the risk of transmission is high,” said Dr. Lorian Hardcastle, associate professor at University of Calgary’s faculty of law and Cumming School of Medicine.

“What I worry about is businesses deciding to do this on an ad hoc basis.

“Businesses that may not be in the business of collecting very much consumer information may not have the privacy processes in place, the infrastructure, the policy, to protect that information in the way that we normally expect our health information to be protected.”

COVID-19 testing is available to all Albertans, and will soon be offered at community pharmacies.