Changes are coming to the way Alberta tests for COVID-19, along with other protective measures, from contract tracing to provincial masking mandates.
A number of changes start tomorrow, with a second round of changes coming into effect in mid-August.
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The following changes will come into effect on Thursday, July 29:
- Quarantine for close contacts will shift from mandatory to recommended. Isolation for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms and for confirmed positive cases is still required.
- Unimmunized individuals who know they have been exposed to COVID-19 should monitor for symptoms and seek testing if they become symptomatic.
- Anyone who is not fully immunized should avoid high-risk locations, such as continuing care facilities and crowded indoor spaces if they have been in contact with a case in the past 14 days.
- All positive cases will continue to be notified. Contact tracers will no longer notify close contacts of exposure. Individuals are asked to inform their close contacts when informed of their positive result.
- Contact tracers will continue to investigate cases that are in high-risk settings, such as acute and continuing care facilities.
- Outbreak management and identification will focus on high-risk locations, including continuing and acute care facilities and high-risk workplaces. Community outbreaks with a surge in cases leading to severe outcomes will also be addressed as needed.
- Asymptomatic testing is no longer recommended. Testing will continue to be available for individuals who are symptomatic.
The next round of changes comes on August 16, with the following:
- Provincial mandatory masking orders will be lifted. Some masking in acute care or continuing care facilities may still be required.
- Isolation following a positive COVID-19 test result will no longer be required, but strongly recommended.
- Individuals with symptoms of any respiratory infection should still remain at home until symptoms have resolved.
- Staying home when sick remains an important way to care for those around us by not passing on any infection.
- Isolation hotels and quarantine support will no longer be available.
- Testing will be available for Albertans with symptoms when it is needed to help direct patient care decisions.
- This testing will be available through assessment centres until August 31 and, after that, will be in primary care settings, including physicians’ offices. For those with severe illness requiring urgent or emergency care, testing will be available in acute care and hospital settings.
- COVID-19 testing will also be offered as needed in high-risk outbreaks such as in continuing care facilities.
- Public health will focus on investigating severe cases that require hospitalization and any deaths due to COVID-19.
- Outbreak management and preventative measures will continue focusing on outbreaks in high-risk settings, such as continuing and acute care facilities.
- Community outbreaks will continue to be addressed as needed.
- Daycares and schools will be supported with measures that would be effective for any respiratory virus if outbreaks are identified.
A wastewater baseline testing program will also be launched at the end of August to provide area trend information and monitor variants of concern.
“COVID-19 is still with us, but we are now in a place where we need to manage it through vaccinations and the proven public health measures used for other communicable viruses,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, in a news release.
“We expect to see increased influenza and other viruses this year, and these changes will make sure the health system is ready and able to support all Albertans in the months ahead.”