Rapid COVID-19 Testing Expands to Include Vulnerable Populations in Alberta

·2 min read

The Alberta Government started a clinical pilot of two different COVID-19 rapid test kits at the beginning of December. Assessment centres in Edmonton and Calgary received PanBio antigen test kits, while centres in Slave Lake and St. Paul received Abbott IDNow test kits. These rapid tests can give on-site results in 20 minutes, instead of the results being delivered in a matter of days. The rapid tests are valid for people who have presented possible COVID-19 symptoms within the last seven days but are not appropriate for close contacts or people that may have been exposed to the virus but are asymptomatic. Over 1,00 people were tested, including 76 positive COVID-19 cases. The people who tested positive were notified within a matter of hours.

The rapid-testing clinical pilot expanded to include the first sites outside of Alberta Health Services facilities during the week of December 7, when staff nurses at the Calgary Drop-In Centre and Edmonton’s isolation facility were trained to use the rapid-testing systems.

Starting on December 18, rapid testing will begin at long-term care and supportive living facilities in the Edmonton Zone through the use of mobile testing centres. Mobile testing centres are also expected to be deployed in the Calgary Zone during the week of December 21. The mobile testing centres will focus on sites that are experiencing outbreaks at first but will then expand to long-term care and supportive living facilities outside of the Edmonton and Calgary Zones.

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro had this to say about these developments “Alberta’s COVID-19 testing program is critical to managing and preventing the spread of the virus in our communities. Bringing rapid point-of-care testing directly to the locations where it can help protect the health of the most vulnerable Albertans is an important addition to our provincial testing system.”

Plans for further expanding the rapid testing program include bringing these capabilities to 25 rural hospitals in the North, Centra, and South Zones over the rest of December and into early January. The point-of-care tests are expected to make a significant difference in the more remote rural communities that currently have to send their test samples to centralized public laboratories to be analyzed.

Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette