Coronavirus: Alberta plans for expanded testing capacity and assessment centres

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Alberta’s top doctor said the risk of getting the coronavirus may increase in the coming weeks and preparations are underway for the onset of more testing.

READ MORE: Alberta has 1st presumptive case of coronavirus

Alberta Health announced the province’s first presumptive case of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, in Calgary on Thursday and another presumptive case in the Edmonton area on Friday.

Public health officials are asking the Edmonton-area man’s close contacts to self-isolate.

The Edmonton man did not appear to have attended any large social gatherings before self-isolation, Alberta Health said Saturday afternoon, adding more information would be provided in an update on Sunday.

3:38 Infectious disease specialist on the coronavirus in Alberta Infectious disease specialist on the coronavirus in Alberta

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said that, starting Saturday, the province will start testing some community influenza samples from its surveillance network.

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The samples were taken from people who were previously tested for influenza or other non-coronavirus illnesses that presented with a cough or fever.

“By testing these samples for COVID-19, we can help ensure that no other cases may be in the province and more quickly detect community transmission if it does occur,” Hinshaw said.

2:51 Alberta expands testing protocols as 2nd presumptive case found Alberta expands testing protocols as 2nd presumptive case found

Those with concerns or symptoms are being asked to contact Health Link at 811.

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The phone line is staffed by medical professionals, including nurses. Those who do call are asked to be patient: Alberta Health Services said on Saturday it was experiencing very high call volume due to people seeking advice on COVID-19.

AHS said it was fully staffed and working to add even more call support.

Health Link is experiencing very high call volume due to individuals seeking advice on #COVID19. We are fully staffed up & working with our Telecommunications provider to add call support. For ongoing info, please continue to see https://t.co/jwRFJGAK0w. pic.twitter.com/2GJFvgjmSh

— Alberta Health Services (@AHS_media) March 7, 2020

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READ MORE: Do you think you have coronavirus symptoms? Here’s who to call first

Hinshaw said plans are in place if demand for testing increases, explaining preparations are being made in every health zone in the province for assessment centres.

“These will be dedicated centres where, somebody who calls Health Link and who meets those criteria for exposure and heaving symptoms, Health Link can refer them and tell them exactly where to go,” Hinshaw said.

Tweet This 1:57 Calgarians prepare to navigate public spaces amid COVID-19 concerns Calgarians prepare to navigate public spaces amid COVID-19 concerns

The province could, previously, conduct 200 coronavirus tests a day — but Hinshaw said that number is expanding.

“We’re in the middle of calibrating and determining if there are some tests that aren’t clinically necessary that we can stop doing, in order to free up capacity to focus on COVID testing.”

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: What if your employer asks you to self-quarantine?

The province’s testing protocols have further been expanded to include anyone who has travelled outside of the country, including to the United States.

Those travellers are being asked to self-monitor for flu-like symptoms and self-isolate if they experience any.

1:25 What to do in Alberta if you think you have COVID-19 symptoms What to do in Alberta if you think you have COVID-19 symptoms

Passengers who recently returned from Iran or the Hubei province of China are being asked to continue to voluntarily go into isolation for 14 days.

Story continues below advertisement 4:22 How coronavirus is impacting Alberta How coronavirus is impacting Alberta View link » Related News

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