A rapid COVID-19 testing program that launched last month, specifically for Alberta’s business community, is showing a promising response.
The program, in partnership with the Alberta government and the Alberta Chambers of Commerce, was introduced on May 12.
Tom McMillan with Alberta Health told Global News more than 77,000 rapid tests had been handed out to 27 chambers across the province.
Jackie Tyler with the Green Bean Restaurant and Catering was one of almost 100 Calgary business owners who signed up for the free program.
“For me, it was a no-brainer,” she said Monday. “I’m like, ‘Absolutely, I want to do this thing.'”
Tyler said after many months of opening and then closing, she was relieved to take any step to be able to reopen again.
“The last year and a half have been a challenge, for sure,” she added. “By March 10 of last year, we had laid off 27 people, which was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
“The sooner we’re out of this, and if this is a step to get us that much closer, then do it!”
The rapid testing kits are available to incorporated businesses, entities and non-profits through the program. The Alberta government also requires participating organizations to report the number of tests administered and results weekly.
The tests don’t require a medical professional to administer them.
Tyler’s employees administer the tests to themselves.
“It’s super easy. Takes like a couple of minutes, tops,” longtime employee Lacelle Kish said. “It’s a little uncomfortable. It’s an interesting sensation but it doesn’t hurt.”
Kish does a lot of deliveries, so she’s glad to keep herself and clients safe.
“I see a good chunk of people when I’m on delivery, so it’s nice to know I’m not COVID positive.”
Kish and co-worker Mansly Lam said they are grateful to their boss for keeping them safe and employed.
“I like to work,” Lam said. “As long as we have the test done, I’m happy with that.”
The Calgary Chamber of Commerce started taking requests a couple of days after the provincial launch. It told Global News it has seen a “promising response” with 95 companies already signing up and more than 1,500 tests administered.
“Stopping the spread of COVID-19 and protecting our economy go hand in hand,” said Ruhee Ismail-Tega, the chamber’s acting director of policy and communications.
“While we know vaccines are the most important long-term solution, we are also focused on providing rapid test kits to help them protect their employees in the short term” she added in a statement.
Organizations do not require a chamber membership to be eligible.