COVID-19 testing expands in Alberta

Five addition deaths Thursday

COVID-19 testing will be even more widely available in the coming days, announced the Alberta government Thursday.

During a live update by Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Thursday, she said that after a pharmacy pilot project for over 10,000 sites was launched in June, the project will be expanded.

“We are pleased to see Alberta Health expand the pharmacy-based COVID-19 testing program beyond the pilot,” Hinshaw said.

“Most of the pharmacist practitioners participating in the pilot have been screening individuals prior to entering the pharmacy and testing by appointment only. Therefore, we encourage those interested in receiving a COVID-19 test to contact their pharmacist in advance.”

The project will be expanded to any pharmacy that wants to offer testing and meets the safety requirements. A list of pharmacies providing testing is now available online. Only people with no symptoms and no known exposure to COVID-19 can be tested at a pharmacy.

As of July 30, the province has completed 676,913 COVID-19 tests.

Hinshaw also announced Thursday 113 new cases and five new COVID-19-related deaths, all of which were in Edmonton. The province now has 195 deaths due to the virus.

The central zone now sits at 201 active cases, with 195 recoveries. Sixteen people are in hospital, with five in the ICU.

Red Deer is down to eight active cases, while 47 people have recovered from the virus. Red Deer County has seven active cases and Lacombe County has eight. The Town of Sylvan Lake sits at five active cases, while Lacombe has just one. The County of Stettler remains the hardest-hit area in the region, with 24 active cases.

The County of Paintearth has 10 active cases, while Starland County has nine and Kneehill County has seven and Mountain View County has one. The City of Wetaskiwin sits at three active cases and Camrose has five. Camrose County now has two active cases.

Meanwhile, there are 1,408 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 9,113 recovered cases. Ninety-one people remain in hospital, with 18 in the ICU. The province also completed 8,760 tests over the past 24 hours.

In the Calgary zone there are 655 cases, while the Edmonton zone sits at 278 active cases. Calgary has also seen 5,701 recovered cases, while Edmonton has 1,304 recovered cases. The Calgary zone has had 114 deaths due to the virus, while the Edmonton zone has had 47.

Hinshaw also explained that 9,400 blood tests were collected for other reasons during the first week in June in order to start serological testing.

It provides a baseline estimate for how many Albertans had antibodies for COVID-19 at that point and time. It reflects infections that happened before the middle of May.

“This is important because many people may not have been aware that they had COVID-19 or not gotten tested for it. Especially in earlier spring before testing was widely available,” she said.

Of the samples, less than one per cent showed the presence of antibodies. Hinshaw said at that time in mid-May, the province had identified 6,000 cases through swab testing.

“We calculate there are almost 36,000 COVID-19 cases in Alberta as of May 20,” she said.

This indicates that Alberta’s testing program had identified about 17 per cent of cases in the population.

“I know this number may sound low, but it’s actually very good,” she said.

Hinshaw noted B.C. showed about 12.5 per cent of estimated cases were identified in its serological study. In California, Spain and Sweden, between 1.3 and 9.7 per cent of cases were identified by swab testing.

“This data indicates that our current PCR testing is highly effective,” she said.

Along with data on cases numbers and hospitalizations, Hinshaw said Alberta’s efforts to flatten the curve and limit the spread of COVID-19 were successful.

“This also tells us as of mid-May, a very low percentage of our population had been infected with COVID-19,” she said.

The study will be repeated monthly.

In addition, Hinshaw also cautioned with the long weekend approaching, Albertans need to be careful about large gatherings.

“We all want to socialize and make happy, positive memories, I am confident none of us want those memories to be spoiled with a loved one getting sick, or family and friends having to isolate because we didn’t take simple precautions,” she said.

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