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All Loblaw pharmacies, Shoppers locations in Alberta to offer asymptomatic COVID-19 testing

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Alberta’s top doctor says 2 new outbreaks after religious gathering, church service' Coronavirus: Alberta’s top doctor says 2 new outbreaks after religious gathering, church service
Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported on Tuesday that there were two recent events that resulted in two separate outbreaks – Aug 18, 2020

Hundreds more Alberta pharmacies will soon be offering asymptomatic COVID-19 testing.

As of Sept. 1, Albertans with no symptoms can be swabbed at all Loblaw pharmacies across the province, including every Shoppers Drug Mart location, which is owned by Loblaws.

The move comes after the province’s chief medical officer of health asked all teachers and staff to be tested before heading back to the classroom in September.

Read more: Coronavirus: Where Alberta’s COVID-19 outbreaks are

Within the next two weeks, all 234 Loblaw-owned pharmacies will offer the testing.

“Overall, it increases Alberta’s testing capacity by about 3,000 to 4,000 tests per day,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said. “That will serve half or more of Alberta’s teachers and school staff.”

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Though Hinshaw is asking all staff to be tested before heading back to school, she reiterated her request for those who haven’t been exposed to COVID-19 and are showing no symptoms to wait a little longer so the system isn’t overwhelmed.

“Please hold off and get tested later in September.”

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Why a negative COVID-19 test isn’t a golden ticket – Jul 15, 2020

Children only need to be tested if they have symptoms, or have a pre-existing health condition like allergies where the symptoms may mimic those of COVID-19.

Hinshaw also reiterated the best way to protect students is to follow the public health guidelines.

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“The best thing we can do for a safe re-entry to school is to keep our community transmission low.”

Those looking to go for an asymptomatic test can find a list of community pharmacies on the Blue Cross website. Any symptomatic COVID-19 test must be booked through the AHS site.

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“The knowledge we gain from testing will inform future pandemic-related public health decisions and will be a foundation of learning for years to come.”

Daily numbers

On Tuesday, Hinshaw announced an additional 89 cases, bringing the provincial total to 1,169 active cases. There are 48 people in hospital with 11 of those people in intensive care.

One additional death was also announced. According to Alberta Health, a man in his 80s from the South zone has died. He was not in continuing care.

Hinshaw also provided an apology to Albertans for an incorrect number of cases reported on Monday. The province announced that 177 cases were identified on Friday.

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Coronavirus: Alberta’s top doctor says 74 cases this weekend ‘erroneously reported’ – Aug 18, 2020

Due to a system upgrade mistake, 44 of those cases should not have been reported. There were actually 103 new cases identified on Friday.

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“I apologize to Albertans for this error and any confusion or anxiety it may have caused,” she said.

More than 8,000 tests were performed in the last 24 hours.

Increase in Edmonton zone cases

Edmonton zone continues to see a surge in active cases as 636 were reported in that region on Tuesday. That compares to 593 active cases reported Monday.

Hinshaw pointed to household transmission and social gatherings as a reason for the high numbers. Two parties – one with 26 cases linked to it and another with 17 cases – as well as one faith group outbreak with 15 cases — have been reported.

“Social gatherings continue to be an issue, particularly indoor social gatherings, and we do have a substantial amount of cases where we are still working on case follow-up with public health and we don’t yet have all the details of where they might have acquired the disease.”

Read more: Alberta records 285 new cases of COVID-19, 3 additional deaths over the weekend

Hinshaw said she expects to have those numbers in the next week or so.

She’s hoping these numbers are a “wake-up call” for the Edmonton zone, much like the province went through when a surge in cases happened in Alberta.

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“This may be Edmonton’s specific wake-up call with respect to realizing within these pockets of transmission, these social gatherings, that it’s critical that each one of us thinks about our activities and thinks that COVID will stop with us,” she said.

“So the activities that we engage in, the behaviours that we do, we need to make sure that we are protecting those around us by not spreading or being in a position where we could potentially spread COVID.”

There has also been a confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a staff member at the Grey Nuns hospital. The staff member was working on a unit with three people confirmed to have COVID-19. The virus was contracted by the three in the community, not at the hospital, Hinshaw said.

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