Calgary to be a focus of expanded COVID-19 testing
CALGARY -- Alberta is looking at pushing up the number of COVID-19 tests conducted by health officials and experts say the City of Calgary will be a big focus.
During the daily update Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney reported another 50 cases of coronavirus in the province, considered to be a "relatively small number."
However, he says the day-to-day variations in confirmed cases aren't a marker of any difference in the spread of the virus, but are more about how many tests have been done.
"Since we've been ramping up more and more tests, we got through a backlog," Kenney said. "What we found was that the limitations we had placed on who would be prioritized to access tests meant that we had fewer people getting tested than capacity to test."
Kenney also admitted health officials ran out of a supply of reagent, a critical part of the testing kits, but that has since been resolved.
"We've gone to the chemical producers to see if they can help us, not only in this province but nationally to produce more reagent here at home."
With the expanded testing capability, Dr. Deena Hinshaw says that means more people can be tested for the illness and there will be a closer focus on the Calgary Zone.
"We are looking at our data to determine where to strategically use testing capacity. We know Calgary has had a higher percent positive rate in their lab testing and this has persisted even with the change in our testing this last week," she said.
Effective immediately, all residents of the Calgary Zone who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 including a cough, sore throat, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose and sneezing, may be tested.
Of the 1,423 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, 860 have been in the Calgary Zone so far. Twenty patients have died of the illness in the same region.
Testing is also being expanded to all essential service workers across the province with the same symptoms, Hinshaw said, as well as anyone who lives with someone who has the symptoms and lives with someone who is 65 or older.
"I want to emphasize we continue to expect anyone who is ill to remain home for at least 10 days from the start of their symptoms or until their symptoms resolve – whichever is longer."
Hinshaw said anyone who fit those criteria is encouraged to use the AHS online assessment tool that will help them book a formal test.
She added that modelling iproduces figures based on total infections in the entire population.
"That makes the numbers higher than what we are seeing in countries that are reporting their confirmed cases," she said. "It is also based on the assumption that every COVID case can spread to one or two other people.
"We can, collectively, reduce that," she added. "Changing our total infections in our province is in our hands. We can make a difference."
The province has a goal to test 20,000 Albertans each day, but Kenney said it won't be a figure authorities will be able to achieve overnight.
"We'll hope to build up to it gradually. It's dependent on the availability of supplies like reagents. There are labs that are not currently in use," he said. "We are expanding the population of people who are eligible for testing – we did that earlier this week.
"As the capacity increases, we will also expand the population of people who are eligible for testing."