Alberta changing COVID-19 testing, isolation in the spring

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Health Matters March 2: If you've had a booster dose of bivalent COVID-19 vaccine, you may not need another— at least for now, according to Alberta Health. And Ottawa has stopped shipping COVID-19 rapid antigen tests to provinces, as interest in the tool wanes. Su-Ling Goh and Katherine Ward report – Mar 2, 2023

The Alberta government is making several changes to the way it deals with COVID-19 in the province.

It is removing a time-based recommendation for COVID-19 isolation. Instead, the province is advising people to stay home until “you feel better.”

The roll-out for additional bivalent booster doses for some Albertans will begin next month.

And the province is moving to a rapid antigen-based testing regime, shuttering testing centres in ten days.

“Changes to COVID-19 testing and isolation recommendations are coming this spring, as Alberta continues to move to a more sustainable approach to COVID-19,” health ministry spokesperson Scott Johnston said in an email.

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Changes to the isolation guidance, effective April 1, are listed on the Alberta government’s COVID-19 information page.

“If you have respiratory virus symptoms or test positive for any respiratory illness, you should stay home until your symptoms have improved and you feel better, to minimize the risk of transmission,” it reads.

“It is recommended that you wear a mask in indoor settings for a total of 10 days from when your symptoms started, especially when around individuals who are high risk.”

Health-care workers will still be recommended to isolate for five days.

The province previously recommended five-day isolation, marked at the start of symptoms, and wearing a mask for the following five days while indoors for everyone.

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Those recommendations were last changed on July 1, 2022, when the province removed isolation requirements.

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Johnston confirmed additional bivalent boosters will become available “for Albertans at higher risk of severe outcomes and who choose to be vaccinated against COVID-19.”

“Starting April 3, booking and administration begins for all Albertans 65+ and Albertans 18+ with certain immunocompromising conditions who are at higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 infection,” he said.

“Individuals living in seniors congregate living facilities can receive the additional bivalent booster starting this week.”

The province is following the most recent guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) and Alberta’s advisory counterpart.

“As of April 1, rapid antigen tests will be the recommended COVID-19 test for most Albertans, including health-care workers. This change supports the closure of Alberta Health Services Assessment Centres on March 31,” Johnston said.

The province will continue to perform genome sequencing on COVID-19 subvariants, with no changes planned for the genomic surveillance program.

The weekly release of COVID-19 data like hospitalizations, deaths and genomic surveillance were delayed on Wednesday, “due to technical difficulties.”

“We are working to post the data as soon as possible,” the province’s website read.

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