Here's what it's like to get an asymptomatic COVID-19 test at an Alberta pharmacy

Aug 13 2020, 10:19 am

Well, that was a lot easier than I expected.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still presenting a very real threat to public health, the Province of Alberta announced at the end of July that it would be expanding its asymptomatic testing at pharmacies.

Originally, the pilot program administered 10,000 tests throughout June, contributing to the nearly 677,000 tests that have been run in Alberta since the pandemic began, and has since been expanded to allow any pharmacy that wants to participate to offer the tests.

Seeing as the Mission pharmacy just down the street from where I live was running tests, I decided to take them up on the offer.

Scheduling was as simple as calling the specific Shoppers location. A prerecorded message prompted me to leave a message with my name and phone number, and I was contacted by a Shoppers worker within the hour.

They explained that the next available time slots were in two days’ time, and I had a selection from a range of hours at which I could arrive.

With that all settled, I arrived at the pharmacy at the decided upon date and time, stood in line at the pharmacy counter, told them I had a test scheduled, showed them my Alberta Health Card, and then waited about two minutes while they got the test set up.

I walked into the little office, sat down, the pharmacist swabbed the back of my throat (asymptomatic tests at pharmacies are always going to be throat swabs, never the terrifying nasal version, I was glad to learn), and then confirmed my information before it was stuck onto the test vial.

I asked the pharmacist if they were seeing a lot of asymptomatic tests at this location — apparently they administer one every 15 minutes.

After that, I was free to go. The whole thing took a grand total of 10 minutes, and I was told that I’d get a phone call with the results in two to four days.

It was both faster and more accessible than the symptomatic, drive-through coronavirus tests that are being administered throughout the province, though even those are a relatively straightforward experience.

According to Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, asymptomatic tests can help Alberta Health Services get an understanding of how the virus is spreading in the province.

“With cases on the rise in Alberta, we must all do our part in the fight against COVID-19,” said Hinshaw in the July release announcing the expansion of asymptomatic testing.

“The actions we each take today will help protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities tomorrow. Testing helps us understand more about the spread of COVID-19 in Alberta.”

The Province of Alberta encourages the public to get an asymptomatic test, especially under the following scenarios:

  • Before or after spending time with individuals who have a higher risk of serious health outcomes (e.g., anyone over 65 or with underlying medical conditions).
  • Before or after travelling internationally, attending an event with recent travellers, or hosting them.
  • Before or after participating in activities or events that may have put you at a higher risk of exposure (e.g., a large gathering where physical distancing was not followed).
  • For frontline workers who have regular interactions with Albertans, particularly those at higher risk of serious outcomes.

Because getting the test done really is a lot easier than you’d expect.

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