‘This will provide a baseline for school re-entry and enhance access throughout the school year’
Alberta and its partner Loblaw Companies are expanding their COVID-19 testing capacities in the province, according to the government.
By Sept. 1, 2020, all 234 of the company’s pharmacies in Alberta – including pharmacies at Independent Foods, Extra Foods, City Market and No Frills – will offer asymptomatic COVID-19 testing. This is an upgrade from the more than 50 Shoppers Drug Mart and Loblaw pharmacies in Real Canadian Superstore locations that are already offering asymptomatic testing.
“Expanding asymptomatic testing to more than 230 of our pharmacies across the province will allow more access to these tests and continued peace of mind, particularly as school resumes and businesses continue to open,” said Ashesh Desai, executive vice president of pharmacy, Shoppers Drug Mart. “Our pharmacies are a convenient destination for Albertans’ healthcare needs, and our stores are proud of our ability to further support our communities during this pandemic.”
Asymptomatic Albertans are still encouraged to complete the AHS self-assessment tool to book a test or contact a participating community pharmacy. Each pharmacy adheres to strict protocols and has the specialized skills needed to protect patient safety. The pharmacy test is a throat swab, which is sent to Alberta Precision Labs for analysis.
Testing at pharmacies is particularly encouraged for all teachers and school staff, said the government.
“Testing is a powerful tool that helps us limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect people from infection,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health. “Expanded testing capacity will support additional testing opportunities for all Albertans, including school teachers and staff. This will provide a baseline for school re-entry and enhance access throughout the school year.”
Also, to support school re-entry, Albertans without symptoms are asked to delay testing until after the 2020-21 school year starts on Sept.1.
Earlier this month, Alberta announced that mask use for Grade 4 to 12 students, and all school staff, will be mandatory when school returns for the 2020-21 year as the province continues to combat COVID-19.
“We are just weeks away from schools reopening. I would like to encourage all teachers and school-related staff to proactively get tested for #COVID19AB before school begins and regularly throughout the year,” said Hinshaw on Twitter.
The expansion is in addition to provincewide testing offered via AHS assessment centres and about 75 other community pharmacies that already offer tests. Additional community pharmacies are encouraged to register voluntarily to offer asymptomatic testing.
The government also said that any Albertan with symptoms of COVID-19 must book testing through AHS via www.ahs.ca/covid. Testing appointments for children with pre-existing medical conditions that have symptoms similar to COVID-19, such as allergies, must also be booked through AHS. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or known exposure must complete the COVID-19 self-assessment or call Health Link 811.
As of Aug. 18, 837,649 COVID-19 tests have been completed on 677,754 residents across the province.
Recently, the government announced it is investing $4.5 million over the next three years in non-profit organizations and researchers working to support mental health treatment for first responders.