ALBERTA – Increased COVID-19 testing in the province will potentially allow for a schedule of when public health measures may be lifted in Alberta.
Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced Tuesday (April 14) that increased testing will allow access to stronger data that will help the province understand how the virus is being transmitted in communities.
“It’s important to remember that with the COVID-19 pandemic we will all be dealing with it for some while,” Hinshaw said. “What we do have is each other and the basic measures to prevent spread that will be with us in the months to come.”
Hinshaw reported 138 new confirmed COVID-19 cases bringing the provincial total to 1,870. The majority of reported cases are in the Calgary Zone.
There are 18 COVID-19 cases in the Bow Valley between Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise and Exshaw. Of those eight are active and 10 have recovered.
Hinshaw added that there have been two more deaths in the province bring the total to 48 and 914 Albertan have fully recovered.
To better understand how the virus is spreading testing has now been opened to all residents displaying COVID-19 symptoms in the province.
The increased data provided by the expanded testing will allow for a better understanding of how the virus is spreading in Alberta, Hinshaw said, explaining that this will help in the planning of reducing public health measures in the months to come.
However, she warned that it may be many months until day-to-day life returns to a semblance of normalcy.
Hinshaw said she hopes to soon provide a more structured timeline to the Emergency Management Coordination Committee of Cabinet in regards to the next steps that can be taken.
She added that large social gatherings may take time to return to the province because they pose a high risk of passing the virus between attendees.
Based on other countries who have been active in testing, Hinshaw said, there are asymptomatic carriers of the virus who do test positive. She added that they typically do go on to present symptoms.
The Alberta testing strategy has focussed on testing those who are at the highest risk of transmitting the virus— meaning those who have symptoms.
The province expanded testing across the province Monday to include anyone exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.
If the lab can test all symptomatic Albertans with tests left over, they will consider testing those who are not symptomatic, Hinshaw said.
“One of the challenges, if we were to embark with testing of people with no symptoms, is that it’s really just a snapshot in time,” Hinshaw said, explaining that an individual could go to be infected with the virus. “If they test negative at that moment in time, at that snapshot, they may still be incubating and go onto develop disease.”
The province is in discussions on where this capacity of testing will be deployed if it is possible.
Hinshaw implored Albertans to maintain good hygiene including frequent hand washing, staying home as much as possible, especially if COVID-19 symptoms are present, practising social distancing and following public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the province.
“These practices continue to be critical in the coming weeks,” Hinshaw said.
Follow RMOToday.com's COVID-19 special section for the latest local and national news on the coronavirus pandemic, as well as resources, FAQs and more.