Alberta coronavirus screening: What’s the criteria and who gets tested?

0
89
Alberta coronavirus screening: What’s the criteria and who gets tested?

As Alberta health officials have been performing more COVID-19 tests than anywhere else in North America, experts are in conversation about whether the testing criteria needs to be modified.

“It likely will change,” said Dr. Mark Joffe, Alberta Health Services medical director for northern Alberta and infection prevention physician. Joffe spoke with Global News on Friday.

That same day, the premier said Alberta had tested more than 17,000 individuals for COVID-19 so far – at a rate of about 2,000 per day.


READ MORE:
Coronavirus drive-thru testing stations could be game-changers: Epidemiologist

“Those are decisions that actually come from the federal government, together with the provinces and the territories, so we are awaiting decisions on whether out screening strategies will be changing,” Joffe said.

Joffe said Alberta’s integrated healthcare system has allowed officials to significantly ramp up screening in the province in the past couple of weeks.

Story continues below advertisement

What’s the criteria?

So who actually needs to be tested?

Well, according to Joffe, right now it’s anyone who believes they’ve been exposed and particularly those who have travelled.

“If they’re self-isolating over the first couple of weeks after returning from travels and then develop fever and a cough, if that’s the case, they should call 811,” he said.


READ MORE:
Calgary orders stricter self-isolation protocols for international travellers, regardless of how they arrived

Joffe stressed the importance of Albertans calling Health Link 811 if they believe they have symptoms of the novel coronavirus.

“Access to our assessment centres is all through 811,” he said. “They are not walk-in, they are not drive-in. They’re only by appointment by 811.”


Tweet This

Getting results

Joffe reiterated the point that if someone is tested, it could take up to four days for those results to come back.

When they do come back, patients who test positive are the top priority.






Health Matters: Dealing with extreme anxiety over COVID-19


Health Matters: Dealing with extreme anxiety over COVID-19

“We are getting the positive results out faster because, of course, those are the ones that we need to prioritize,” Joffe said. “We need to identify their contacts as well.

Story continues below advertisement

“The negative ones will definitely take longer to report.”

 Should criteria be changed?

Alberta’s first cases were travel-related, but in recent days, more cases of community-transmission have been confirmed, leading to questions about whether the criteria around who should be tested needs to be updated.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said Friday that 11 of the confirmed cases are suspected to be a result of community transmission.

Joffe said identifying who needs to be screened is a “moving target.”

“And then of course setting up the assessment centres so that we can facilitate screening of those individuals,” he said.


READ MORE:
Alberta doctor saw patients, underwent medical procedure before testing positive for COVID-19

“It’s a fine balance between just how much testing can we do, what is the capacity of the system?

“And how do we ensure that we’re testing the right people at the right time so we can act on those results and offer the public the protection that they need.”

More cases to come

Joffe said health officials are working hard behind the scenes to prepare for a spike in cases expected over the next month.

Story continues below advertisement

“We are anticipating this, we are planning for it and we will be ready to deal with the increasing number of cases,” he said.


Tweet This

“There will [also] be an increasing number of individuals staying home with mild symptoms, who we will be providing care for in different ways.”

Joffe said healthcare workers are also “going through intense preparation” for an increase in the number of Albertans who need hospitalization and who will be admitted to the ICU for treatment of COVID-19.






Death of man in Edmonton zone is Alberta 1st COVID-19 fatality


Death of man in Edmonton zone is Alberta 1st COVID-19 fatality

As of Friday, Alberta had 195 cases of the coronavirus in the province, 49 of those having been confirmed in the last 24 hours.

Ten of those patients were in hospital and five in intensive care.

“This is a virus to be taken very seriously,” chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.

“Every single case is one that could potentially end up in a very serious situation.”