Alberta puts halt on most asymptomatic coronavirus testing

Oct 20 2020, 3:15 pm

The Province of Alberta has put a pause on asymptomatic coronavirus testing for those without a known exposure.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw made the announcement during a Tuesday press conference, stating that, effective immediately, AHS and community pharmacies will no longer be offering asymptomatic testing unless the person has been exposed to a confirmed case or linked to an outbreak.

The halt expands on a similar announcement from September that shifted asymptomatic testing from all Albertans to just those of specific demographics, such as frontline workers, teachers, and Albertans experiencing homelessness.

Hinshaw stated that the decision came in the hopes of speeding up the time it takes for symptomatic Albertans to get their tests back.

“This is an important and necessary step that will help us reduce testing wait times, get results to Albertans, and limit the spread,” Hinshaw said in the press conference.

“To be clear, we will continue testing any Albertan with symptoms, and anyone who has no symptoms but is a close contact to a known case, or is linked to an outbreak.”

Existing asymptomatic testing appointments will still be kept up to November 4, but AHS and community pharmacies will no longer be taking new appointments as of today.

Hinshaw also noted that, of the 650,000 asymptomatic tests of people with no known exposure, only 0.11% came back positive.

“It is very rare to find cases in those without symptoms and without known exposure,” said Hinshaw.

“We need to focus our testing where it counts, so that anyone with symptoms, including children held home from school, or anyone who is a close contact or part of an outbreak, gets results as quickly as possible.”

The testing of asymptomatic Albertans with no known exposure made up about 30% of the province’s coronavirus tests over the past week.