Photo from Alberta Health Services

Province to expand COVID rapid testing to seniors homes and rural hospitals

Mobile units will begin testing in Edmonton, then Calgary before expanding to rest of province

Alberta is expanding its rapid COVID-19 testing program to seniors facilities and rural hospitals across the province, Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced on Thursday morning.

Rapid testing will be available to residents of long-term care and support-living facilities who are within the first seven days of showing symptoms. Testing using mobile testing centres will start in Edmonton facilities this week, then move on to Calgary beginning next week and will expand soon after across the province.

“It means we can identify positive cases within hours,” said Shandro in a news conference.

Testing will be further expanded later this month and into January at 25 rural hospitals in the north, central and south zones. In central Alberta, hospitals in Rocky Mountain House, Castor and Coronation will get point-of-care testing, improving on a system that currently requires all patient samples to be sent to centralized public laboratories for analysis.

Hospitals in Drumheller, Wetaskiwin and Drayton Valley are also part of Alberta Health Services Central Zone and will get rapid testing.

Shandro said the 25 sites were chosen based on their location and transport time required to get tests analyzed, test volumes and community needs.

READ MORE

Red Deer seniors facilities hit by COVID

More Albertans have died from COVID this year than from flu in the last 10 years

“The expansion of rapid testing means we can notify health care teams sooner to prioritize those who are still infectious,” said Shandro, adding it will also free up capacity in testing labs.

The expansion of rapid testing systems to new locations across the province will provide faster and more convenient testing to identify and isolate positive cases quicker than has been possible previously, says Alberta Health.

More than 1,000 people have received the rapid tests at assessment centres and hospital locations to date, including 76 positive cases who were notified about their result in a matter of hours.

Dr. Will Stokes said the rapid tests have proven effective in identifying COVID cases, “especially in people with symptoms and signs of COVID-19 infection.

“Speeding up the identification of positive COVID-19 cases using these rapid tests is important to contain the spread of the virus in our communities. It will also help alleviate some of the pressures we face at the provincial laboratory.”

Asymptomatic people will not get rapid testing at this time because of the possibility of getting a negative result when the person actually is positive with a low level of COVID and still able to infect others.

Expansion of the rapid-testing clinical pilot began during the week of Dec. 7 with the deployment of systems at the first non-Alberta Health Services sites – Calgary’s Drop-In Centre and Edmonton’s isolation facility – where staff nurses have been trained to use the systems with homeless shelter clients who are difficult to reach through the existing COVID-19 testing program.

Work is underway to bring the systems to more homeless shelters in urban and rural locations in the coming weeks.

Since March, Alberta has completed more than 2.5 million COVID tests on 1.5 million people.



Send your news tips

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Annual spending on debt interest is closing in on $3 billion

Alberta reported an additional 399 cases of COVID-19 Thursday, on 9,217 tests, for a test positivity rate of 4.3 per cent. (Image courtesy CDC)
Red Deer down to 562 active COVID-19 cases

8 new COVID-19 deaths, 399 additional COVID-19 cases

Alberta premier Jason Kenney, right and Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, provide details about Bill 13, the Alberta Senate Election Act., in Edmonton Alta, on Wednesday June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Minister Doug Schweitzer talks on Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit

Provincial government rolling out new benefit this April to better help small businesses.

Bookings for COVID-19 vaccines for people age 75 or older start Wednesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Updated: Delays for seniors booking for vaccine appointments

By 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, 4,500 seniors had booked their appointments

A helicopter flies past a mountain near McBride, B.C., on Saturday January 30, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Avalanche warning for backcountry users in North and South Rockies

Avalanche Canada is urging backcountry users to always check their regional avalanche forecasts

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta’s COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

The court says it will reconvene with lawyers on March 5 for a case management plan by teleconference

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

Emily Keeping of Wetaskiwin, Alta., was last seen at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin. Supplied/ Wetaskiwin RCMP.
UPDATE: Wetaskiwin RCMP seek assistance in locating missing 11-year-old

Emily Keeping was last seen on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin.

Sylvan Lake's Winter Village lured many visitors to the town this winter. The town has launched a new contest to attract a new business.
(Black Press file photo)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Students and staff at Gateway Christian School wore pink Wednesday in support of Pink Shirt Day, a worldwide anti-bullying initiative that was started in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Public Schools)
Students, central Alberta community celebrate Pink Shirt Day

Mayor of Sylvan Lake Sean McIntyre supports anti-bullying cause

Most Read