By Nikki Jamieson
Alta Newspaper Group – Coaldale
Increased testing and continued vigilance will help keep Albertans and the economy healthy, according to the minister of economic development, trade and tourism.
In a telephone town hall on Friday, June 19, Tanya Fir, minister of economic development, trade and tourism, hosted a discussion on COVID-19 testing and the Stage 2 Relaunch for the province’s relaunch strategy.
“While the economy is very important, our first priority is protecting the health of Albertans as it always has been since day one of this pandemic,” said Fir. “But having said that, we can’t ignore that the economic downturn is also having a real impact on our economy as well. I’m sure most of you have seen the economic downturn, and how it’s affect the physical and mental health of members of your community, and I know that moving in phase two of Alberta’s relaunch provided some assurance to many.”
Fir said that while the province is reopening, they are remaining vigilant to ensure the health and safety of those in Alberta. One of the ways to do so is by increasing the level of testing in the province. She said they were proud to have “one of the highest rates of testing in the world so far”, with more than 356,000 people being tested. Testing for COVID-19 helps the province trace the spread of the virus, determine how well public health measures are working, get a point in time assessment of the prevalence of COVID-19 in Alberta and make informed decisions on how to proceed during the pandemic.
“Testing is so critical to protecting Albertans from the spread and getting Alberta back to work and getting Albertans back to opening up businesses,” said Fir. “It was as the result of the hard work of Albertans and adhering to safety guidelines and standards and keeping infections low that we were able to move to stage two a week ahead of the originally planned date. But we want people to know that any Albertans, whether they have symptoms or not, is eligible to be tested.”
While some groups of people qualify for priority testing — such as those exhibiting symptoms, close contacts of COVID-19 cases, workers or residents at outbreak sites or long term care or supported living facilities and all patients admitted to continuing care or transferred from continuing care to a hospital setting — all Albertans can be tested for the virus. New technology will be coming online and integrating into the current system to increase the daily maximum to 16,000 from the end of June. Additional testing supplies, training new staff and increased lab time are also facilitating increased testing. People are encouraged to book their testing appointment online using Alberta Health Service’s assessment tool or by calling 8-1-1.
“Anyone recommended for testing is legally required to self-isolate and required to remain in self-isolation at home while they wait for test results. If someone chooses not to be tested, they most isolate for 10 days from the onset of symptoms until symptoms have resolved, whichever is the latest. And form a business point of view, as we’ll as from a health perspective, we recommend that you encourage testing with your employees to avoid the need for that 10 day isolation. Testing provides for the peace of mind for the individual and removes that anxiety and fear of simply waiting it out, and it provides peace of mind for business owners, for customers, for co-workers, as they will know definitively if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19.”
Fir stressed that there is no cost to either the employee or employer for COVID-19 testing, and in addition to testing, the best thing they could do is continue the safety measures and precautions in place to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
“These habits, that we should all continue to follow and move forward, will continue to help us keep the rate of infections and hospitalizations low, so we don;t encounter a second wave of that pandemic, and we don’t need to close businesses and reduce services again.”