The Alberta Government is making rapid COVID-19 testing available for more rural communities, long-term care facilities and homeless shelters.
Starting December 18, rapid point-of-care testing will start at long-term care and supportive living facilities in the Edmonton zone using mobile testing centres. More mobile testing centres are expected to be in the Calgary zone starting the week of December 21 and will focus on outbreak sites first.
The expansion to facilities outside of the two city zone is expected to follow shortly after through the rest of December and early January. Rapid testing systems will be deployed in 25 rural hospital sites including Wainwright, Provost, Elk Point, St. Paul, Cold Lake, Vegreville and Two Hills.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro clarifies that these tests are most effective for people who are already showing symptoms of the virus.
“As we’ve learned about rapid tests and deploying rapid tests, I think there’s been a lot of misinformation about what rapid tests can and can’t do. They are fantastic if someone is symptomatic, especially if they’ve been symptomatic past seven days. If there is a positive test and somebody’s symptomatic then we know it’s a positive and that’s correct.”
He adds with rapid testing if someone has the virus and is asymptomatic, then there’s a possibility the test can come back negative. Dr. William Stokes with Alberta Health Services adds the tests also alleviates some of the pressures at the provincial laboratories.
“Speeding up the identification of positive COVID-19 cases using these rapid tests is important to contain the spread of virus in our communities.”
The province says the expansion will provide faster and more convenient testing which will help identify and isolate positive cases quicker. They say more than 1,000 people have received the tests and 76 positive cases were notified about their results in a matter of hours.
A rapid-test pilot program started during the week of December 7 at Calgary’s Drop-In Centre and Edmonton’s isolation facility to test both city’s homeless populations.