Alberta begins asymptomatic testing in advance of reopening local economy
TORONTO -- As Alberta prepares to reopen the local economy, the province has begun widespread testing for COVID-19, including for those who aren’t showing any symptoms of the virus.
The province is testing 1,000 asymptomatic people in Calgary each day between May 11 and 18. The tests are prioritized to people who work outside and are capped at 1,000 to ensure there are enough tests for those who are showing symptoms.
The testing is focused on Calgary because the city is showing higher cases of COVID-19 than the rest of the province. As of Monday, the Calgary Zone represented 68 per cent of Alberta’s COVID-19 cases.
On Wednesday, CTV News Senior Political Correspondent Glen McGregor visited a drive-in testing clinic in Calgary for his own COVID-19 test. Those taking the drive-in tests will receive word on their status within four days. They are sent an automated call if the results come back negative, while a live agent calls them if the test is positive.
Swabbing symptom-free Albertans gives health officials a better idea where the virus is spreading.
“What we want to determine is what percentage of the population is infected COVID-19 at one point in time, and has the potential to spread it to others,” Dr. Christopher Mody, head of the University of Calgary’s Department of Microbiology, told CTV News.
On Tuesday, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said ramping up from less than 30,000 tests daily to 60,000 tests each day was crucial to controlling a potential second wave of COVID-19 as businesses across the country begin to reopen.
Alberta is beginning its own relaunch of the economy on Thursday.
“A wide array of businesses and facilities will be able to reopen in most of Alberta, including retail businesses like clothing, furniture and bookstores, along with all vendors at farmers' markets, hairstyling and barber shops,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney told reporters on Wednesday.
The phasing in of businesses is being delayed 10 days in Calgary and in the community of Brooks, Alta., about 190 kilometres southeast of Calgary, where there were approximately 200 active cases of the virus as of Tuesday, including 44 at JBS Foods slaughterhouse.
Enhanced testing could also be on the way across the country as Health Canada approved an Italian-made antibody test on Tuesday. This test is able to determine if someone has ever had the COVID-19 virus by detecting antibodies in the patient’s blood.
It’s the first such test to receive Health Canada approval.