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Alberta to make change to COVID-19 testing as cases in province continue to rise

Starting Wednesday, all tests will be by appointment only
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Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. Alberta's chief medical officer of health says the province will change the way COVID-19 is tested to make it more efficient as cases continue to rise. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON — Alberta is to change the way COVID-19 is tested to make it more efficient as case numbers continue to surge, especially in the Edmonton zone, the province's chief medical officer of health said.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said at a news conference Tuesday that the province will no longer conduct drop-in tests at Alberta Health Services assessment centres.

Starting Wednesday, all tests at those facilities will be by appointment only.

"By shifting to a provincewide appointment process, we will make on-site testing quicker and more efficient," Hinshaw said. "We will also reduce crowding in lines and help ensure that everyone is tested as quickly and safely as possible."

The province reported Tuesday that there were 961 new cases of COVID-19 detected and four additional deaths over the Thanksgiving weekend. There are 97 people in hospital, and 13 of those are in intensive care.

The province counted 236 cases Friday, 259 cases Saturday, 240 Sunday and 220 Monday.

Hinshaw said the province has seen an increase in acute care admissions, primarily linked to COVID-19 outbreaks at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary and the Misericordia Community Hospital in Edmonton.

She also noted that the Edmonton zone remains the hot spot in Alberta with 1,444 active cases, which is more than half of the active cases in the entire province.

The recent surge in cases in the area prompted health officials last week to introduce voluntary measures such as limiting social gatherings to 15 people, encouraging the use of masks in all indoor work settings and limiting the number of people's cohorts to three.

Hinshaw said a growing source of frustration is people not showing up for their COVID-19 testing appointments. For example, she said, Calgary saw a 14 per cent no-show rate over the long weekend.

"It is easy and convenient to change or cancel your testing appointment online, freeing up your spot for someone else," she said. "Please help us make the system as effective and efficient as possible.

Another frustrating trend, Hinshaw said, is the increasing number of people refusing to share information with contact tracers about where they could have been exposed to the virus. 

"It is understandable that people are tired of COVID, and angry at the ways that their lives have been disrupted. Unfortunately, choosing not to work with contact tracers does not make that better. It makes it worse," she said.

"If you are diagnosed with COVID, please don't turn any understandable anger against the contact tracers, who are doing their job as part of a collective effort to maintain manageable levels of transmission."

Also Tuesday, Hinshaw confirmed an outbreak at a potato processing plant in southern Alberta. 

So far, eight people at the Cavendish Farms Potato Processing Plant in Lethbridge, Alta., have contracted the virus. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 13, 2020.

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press





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