Alberta pharmacists to begin offering tests for COVID-19

Alberta will soon begin testing for COVID-19 at community pharmacies, says Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

Twenty pharmacies, located primarily in Edmonton and Calgary, will begin to offer swab tests to Albertans without symptoms and no known exposure to COVID-19, Shandro said at a news conference Thursday.

He stressed while pharmacies will make testing convenient and potentially closer to home, they must not be accessed by people who have reason to believe they could be sick.

“If you have symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19, please do not go to your pharmacy,” he said. “Stay home. Complete the online assessment or you can call the Health Link at 811.”

The number of pharmacies conducting COVID-19 testing will expand further once processes, flow of test materials and data is working well, he said.

Each participating pharmacy will adhere to strict protocols and has the specialized skills needed to protect patient safety, he said. 

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, reported 26 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, with one additional new death.

The death was a patient at the Misericordia Community Hospital in Edmonton. An outbreak at the hospital is now in two units. Six patients and five staff are infected.

“This is the first time that we have had an acute-care outbreak where transmission has occurred within a facility that’s affected patients,” Hinshaw said.

Other outbreaks in hospitals have been among staff, she said.

“I don’t want people to fear going to seek health care because of this incident,” Hinshaw said. “This is an isolated incident.”

Don’t avoid getting tested, Hinshaw says

Hinshaw said she has heard reports of people with symptoms who don’t want to be tested as they’re afraid of the stigma they might face if a test comes back positive. 

She underlined the importance of being tested.

“We will only be successful in keeping COVID-19 spread manageable if we are able to use evidence-based interventions, such as contact tracing and self-isolation of close contacts,” she said.

“I know it can be uncomfortable to be in this position, whether you are a case or a close contact.”

Over the last four months, the province has completed 415,000 swab tests for COVID-19.

To date 7,191 Albertans have recovered from the disease while 154 have died.

As of Thursday, 38 people were in hospital, including eight in intensive care.

Average infected Albertan is 39 years old

There are now 506 active cases in the province, most of them younger people.

“A majority of active cases we have identified in recent weeks are in Albertans under the age of 40,” Hinshaw said.

“At this time, the average age of COVID-19 infections in Alberta is 39,” she said.

“No one is immune to COVID-19. And currently, there are four Edmontonians in hospital under the ages of 30.

“These patients do not have any underlying health conditions and yet they are very sick.”

An outbreak at the Verve Condominiums in Calgary has infected 32 people with 27 active cases and five recovered.

Here’s how the active cases break down by zone:

  • Edmonton zone: 237
  • Calgary zone: 207
  • North zone: 33
  • South zone: 23
  • Central zone: 3
  • Unknown: 3 

‘COVID-19 loves a party’

Hinshaw warned Albertans to take care while celebrating Canada Day.

“COVID-19 loves a party so we can’t let our guard down,” she said. “As you’re making plans to celebrate with family and friends, please consider the steps you can take to minimize risk.

“One single barbecue can spark a wide number of cases. We’ve seen that a single individual who may not even know that they have the virus can infect a large number of their friends, coworkers and neighbours.”

With theatres set to open in Stage 2 of the province’s relaunch, Hinshaw had this advice.

“We know that indoor spaces are higher risk than outdoor and especially if you’re in a theatre, watching a movie where there might be people laughing heartily, or … if it’s an action movie and people are going to be shouting.

“You may want to wear a mask, not just to protect yourself but to protect those around you.”

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