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Coronavirus: How Alberta Health defines a ‘recovered’ case

How does Alberta keep track of recovered COVID-19 cases?
WATCH: Chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw explains how Alberta Health tracks COVID-19 cases to determine when someone can be moved from the active cases to recovered category.

As of June 29, Alberta had conducted 442,253 tests for COVID-19. Since testing began, 8,067 Albertans have tested positive for the virus and 7,354 are listed as recovered.

But what does “recovered” mean?

Read more: Coronavirus: Alberta increasing outdoor gathering limit to 200

According to Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan, a recovered case is generally defined as:

  • Anyone who has passed 14 days since the specimen was collected without requiring hospitalization or additional treatment;
  • If a case required hospitalization, anyone who has passed 10 days following their date of discharge;
  • If tested, two negative tests at least 24 hours apart.

Read more: These Canadians say they suffered COVID-19 symptoms for months

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When asked if a patient would still be considered “recovered” if their symptoms persist after the 14-day period, McMillan responded:

“There is no clinical evidence at this time suggesting COVID-19 symptoms continue for several months. We recommend that anyone with ongoing health concerns speak to their health care provider.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Alberta returns to ‘gold standard’ nasal pharyngeal swabs as global supply rebounds

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said Tuesday that public health workers follow up with people who test positive to make sure they understand their symptoms and the requirement to isolate.

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“But in terms of keeping track of our administrative counts, and how we know who’s recovered versus not, that’s a bit more automatic,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.

“We look at the confirmed cases who’ve been diagnosed and then after a particular period of time — as long as they’re not admitted to hospital, we have no record that they have had a serious illness… or required ICU care, that they haven’t passed away — then at that period of time, they would be deemed recovered.

“That kind of gives them a little leeway past the 10-day clinical resolution time period to make sure we’re counting them as recovered.”

Hinshaw said Alberta isn’t requiring individual certifications of recovery. Instead, the province has made the process more systematic in order to take some of the burden off public health workers, who have a heavy lift on the front end of testing and contact tracing.

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Alberta COVID-19 update: Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Alberta COVID-19 update: Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Unlike some jurisdictions, Alberta does not require two negative tests in order to deem someone “recovered.”

“The reason for that is we now know people can shed the virus for many weeks after they have recovered,” Hinshaw said. “When someone is shedding the virus after many weeks, although it can be detected, it is not considered to be infectious. So that virus would be dead.

“So even though you would pick it up on a swab, it wouldn’t be able to be passed to someone else.

“It is no longer that helpful to require those two negative test results because someone could be shedding virus for a very long time but not be infectious to others and still potentially be testing positive,” she explained.

As of June 29, there were 559 active COVID-19 cases in Alberta, 41 people requiring hospitalization — nine of whom were in intensive care units — and 154 deaths.

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