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Alberta coronavirus daily briefing – April 13: Anyone with symptoms can be tested; PPE shipped out

New protocols open coronavirus testing to all Albertans with symptoms consistent with those of COVID-19.

Last week, the province expanded testing to all residents of the Calgary Zone, where cases are substantially higher than elsewhere in Alberta.

In Monday’s post-Easter-weekend briefing, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced an additional 81 cases.  Added to Saturday and Sunday’s case counts of 69 and 82, respectively, the Alberta total of cases is 1,732.

So far, 877 people have recovered. Of the 1,732 cases, it’s suspected that 254 cases are community acquired. Two more deaths were reported, bringing Alberta’s total to 46.

There were no in-person daily briefings over the Easter weekend. It was the first briefing in a couple of days for Dr. Hinshaw.

“I was delighted to hear and read of the many examples of how Albertans were celebrating this weekend,” she said.

“I want to say thank you to all of you for doing your part to prevent the spread this weekend, you have helped save lives.”

Alberta ramps up coronavirus testing capacity

Dr. Hinshaw said that the Alberta testing lab has continued to ramp up its testing capability since the first cases were reported. She estimates they can now test about 7,400 Albertans daily.

So far 77,007 people have been tested for COVID-19, with 2,465 tests done in the past 24 hours.

“We have seen from other jurisdictions that have successfully flattened the curve, that aggressive testing is essential to controlling the spread,” said Dr. Hinshaw.  

“As I’ve said before, it’s extremely important to not just complete as many tests as we can, but that we are also purposeful in our testing.”

Dr. Hinshaw said that’s why they’ve constantly been changing or expanding eligibility requirements for testing. They’ve wanted to test the people they believe are at most risk or have the highest need.

With the significantly higher number of cases in Calgary, last week Dr. Hinshaw said they would expand testing to anyone in the Calgary Zone exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

Now, that’s been expanded to anyone in Alberta with a fever, cough, shortness of breath, runny nose, or sore throat.

Dr. Hinshaw said opening the testing up across the province means that there will be more daily positive cases reported.

“I know seeing this increase in numbers may be a concern to some,” she said.

“But it’s important to remember that the number of daily confirmed cases, as a percent of the tests done every day, has remained approximately similar to the past several weeks.”

Dr. Hinshaw also said that anyone with symptoms should stay home and complete the self-assessment tool. From there they could be directed to testing.

PPE provided to other provinces

Last week, it was announced by Premier Jason Kenney that more than 750,000 N95 masks would be shipped to BC, Ontario and Quebec, with several million pairs of gloves and procedural masks joining them.

A few days earlier, the Premier said that Alberta had a roughly one month’s supply of N95 masks.

In a provincial release, they said there would be a mid-May coronavirus peak, with an estimated 820 people needing hospitalization. Based on modelling, the province said that with current stockpiles and orders, they were confident they would have a good supply of personal protective equipment.

Dr. Hinshaw was asked about certain specialists having to buy the masks on the open market. She was also asked if she would comment on the province’s decision to ship the equipment. Dr. Hinshaw deferred these questions to Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s office.

If there are doctors not able to access the required PPE, Dr. Hinshaw said, they could contact the provincial operations centre and they would evaluate those requests.