January 18th, 2021

Continued COVID-19 testing can help Alta. prepare for possible second wave

By Lethbridge Herald on June 24, 2020.

Registered nurse Sheena Watson uses a nasopharyngeal swab as she takes a sample from a patient for COVID-19 testing Wednesday at the Lethbridge Health Unit. - Herald photo by Ian Martens

Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald
As Alberta Health Services prepares for possible second wave of COVID-19 in the province this fall testing is available to all Albertans, even those without symptoms, says Dr. David Strong, provincial health officer for the AHS Communicable Disease Program.
“We are learning as we go more and more about this virus,” he says. “We have learned along the way people can have asymptomatic infections. We think there is some evidence they actually can transmit the infection while they are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic.”
Alberta Health Services confirms since May 11 about 45,300 Albertans have been voluntarily tested who showed no actual symptoms of the virus. Of those only 0.03 per cent (13 cases) have been found positive for coronavirus.
In the South Zone testing was opened to all local residents on May 29, and so far 1,789 COVID-19 tests have been conducted on those who showed no symptoms. As of this week, none of those tests have yet come back positive, AHS reports.
Those 45,300 voluntary asymptomatic tests make up just over 10 per cent of the 402,000 COVID tests conducted in Alberta over the past several months.
Strong hopes this continued intensive testing will help public health officials in Alberta see the second wave of COVID-19 coming before it has a chance to take hold in the larger general population. Strong says the best estimate as to when that second wave may hit will be this fall.
He explains with no vaccine an easily transmissible virus, and a lack of communal immunity to the disease, makes a second wave in Alberta a highly probable scenario.
“We didn’t have widespread transmission going on into the (general) population, which means we have a large susceptible population,” Strong confirms. “This is an easily transmissible virus and we have a very susceptible population still. So we have to believe at some point there is going to be a second wave.”
Strong advises Lethbridge residents to continue to show vigilance and follow all public health protocols to offset this impending risk.
“Personal responsibility is really important,” he states. “A large part of that responsibility is around things like social distancing — that is probably the most effective thing people can be doing. We don’t want people using the testing to get some sort of reassurance they don’t have to do the social distancing. People really do need to be maintaining those (public health) guidelines: I would recommend wearing a mask in public, frequently washing your hands, and if you are sick getting yourself tested.”
To date there have been 7,781 confirmed COVID-19 cases province-wide, and 1,290 cases in the South Zone. Currently there are three active cases in Lethbridge.
To make an appointment to have a test done visit http://www.alberta.ca/covid-19-testing-in-alberta.aspx or call the 811 HealthLink line.
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