Alberta deploys almost 1M rapid tests to help screen for COVID-19

·2 min read
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Health Minister Tyler Shandro updated the province's response to COVID-19 at a news conference Thursday.  (CBC - image credit)
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Health Minister Tyler Shandro updated the province's response to COVID-19 at a news conference Thursday. (CBC - image credit)

The Alberta government is shipping 924,000 rapid tests to sites across the province to speed up screening for COVID-19, Health Minister Tyler Shandro says.

Rapid tests are intended to support screening programs to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, Shandro said, and will help prevent outbreaks at a range of businesses and sectors:

  • 325,000 tests to Suncor, Syncrude and CNRL.

  • 267,000 to long-term care, designated-supportive living and hospice facilities.

  • 100,000 for a new pilot program offering rapid tests in two Calgary schools.

  • 100,000 to rural and remote hospitals, assessment centres and other health-care sites.

  • 76,000 to WestJet.

  • 56,000 to various other industries and groups across the province.

"Rapid tests can benefit workers in a number of occupations," Shandro said Thursday at a news conference.

The tests will be used at Cargill's High River meatpacking plant over the next several months, Shandro said, and discussions are underway to provide tests to other meat processing plants.

Mobile testing will also be used to help with the response to the outbreak at the Olymel plant in Red Deer, he said.

"We know that many other employers and service providers could benefit from rapid testing, and so we're working to further expand this program."

Latest case numbers

The province reported five more COVID-19 deaths on Thursday and 364 new cases of the illness.

Across Alberta there were 4,488 active cases, with 259 patients being treated in hospital for COVID-19 including 38 in ICU beds.

About 10,200 tests were conducted over the past 24 hours, with a positivity rate of about four per cent.

Another 41 cases were identified of "variants of concern," bringing the total in the province so far to 775.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, announced at a news conference on Thursday that the province will speed up rollout of the Covishield/AstraZeneca vaccine.

WATCH | Dr. Hinshaw speaks about the limits of rapid testings

Starting 8 a.m. Friday, Albertans born in 1959 or 1960 will be added to the list of those who can book appointments.

That mean all Albertans born from 1957 to 1960 will be able to book immunization appointments using the AHS online booking tool or by calling Health Link at 811.

First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born in 1972 to 1975 will be able to book their appointments by calling the AHS 811 line.

Additional shipments of the vaccine are expected to arrive in the province next week. Albertans who become eligible will never lose their eligibility, the province has said.

Alberta is following the advice of a national immunization committee and is not offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to people 65 and older, because clinical trials didn't include enough people in that age group to determine efficacy.