Alberta coronavirus screening: What’s the criteria and who gets tested?

As Alberta health officials have been performing more COVID-19 tests than anywhere else in North America, experts are in conversation about whether the testing criteria needs to be modified.

“It likely will change,” said Dr. Mark Joffe, Alberta Health Services medical director for northern Alberta and infection prevention physician. Joffe spoke with Global News on Friday.

That same day, the premier said Alberta had tested more than 17,000 individuals for COVID-19 so far – at a rate of about 2,000 per day.

“Those are decisions that actually come from the federal government, together with the provinces and the territories, so we are awaiting decisions on whether out screening strategies will be changing,” Joffe said.

Joffe said Alberta’s integrated healthcare system has allowed officials to significantly ramp up screening in the province in the past couple of weeks.

What’s the criteria?

So who actually needs to be tested?

Well, according to Joffe, right now it’s anyone who believes they’ve been exposed and particularly those who have travelled.

“If they’re self-isolating over the first couple of weeks after returning from travels and then develop fever and a cough, if that’s the case, they should call 811,” he said.

Joffe stressed the importance of Albertans calling Health Link 811 if they believe they have symptoms of the novel coronavirus.

“Access to our assessment centres is all through 811,” he said. “They are not walk-in, they are not drive-in. They’re only by appointment by 811.”

Getting results

Joffe reiterated the point that if someone is tested, it could take up to four days for those results to come back.

When they do come back, patients who test positive are the top priority.

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