Alberta announced that it will be distributing nearly one million COVID-19 rapid tests throughout the province during a news briefing Thursday afternoon.
More than 924,000 rapid tests are being distributed to help protect workers, students, and vulnerable Albertans, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said. Rapid tests will be used to support current screening programs, not in place of these programs.
This includes 100,000 tests directed to a new pilot project that will offer rapid tests in two Calgary schools currently experiencing outbreaks.
A team will set up at each participating school to test students and staff who do not have symptoms and have not been identified as close contacts. Rapid tests results may be available within an hour.
Students and staff who get a positive result from the test will not be able to return to class and are required to isolate.
Tests will be offered at these schools every week for up to three weeks to students who are not experiencing any symptoms.
“We are piloting rapid testing in schools with outbreaks as part of our commitment to safely continue in-person learning,” said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. “Rapid testing can possibly offer a close to real-time check on the situation in an entire school experiencing an outbreak.”
“Every day a student is able to attend school in-person is a win during the pandemic.”
Results from the first three weeks of the pilot will be assessed and used in deciding how the pilot program can be expanded to include more schools and regions.
The provincial government said that one school from both the Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Catholic School District will participate. These schools have not yet been selected.
The Alberta government said that thousands of additional rapid tests will be deployed to more businesses and service providers in the coming weeks.
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Also on Thursday, Hinshaw announced 364 new COVID-19 cases were discovered in the last 24 hours.
There are now 4,488 active cases in Alberta. 259 people are in hospital due to the virus, including 38 individuals in intensive care.
In the past 24 hours, 41 additional cases of variants of concern have been identified, bringing the province’s total to 775.
Hinshaw also reported five additional deaths related to the virus.
She noted that today is Canada’s National Day of Observance for COVID-19, saying it’s “a time to remember the many people we have lost, and a reminder that we must continue to do all we can to keep each other safe.”
Hinshaw recognized the 1,933 lives that have been lost due to COVID-19 as of March 10.
“Every death represents a person who was loved by family and friends, and who will be mourned,” she said.