COVID-19 website receives 300,000 visits
A new tool to self-assess for the novel coronavirus has launched in Alberta to reduce the strain on Health Link 811 call volumes, which have more than doubled in recent days.
The online service is the first of its kind in Canada and helps people determine whether to call Health Link 811 and get tested for COVID-19. The online questionnaire asks what symptoms, if any, someone is experiencing and takes the user through steps to determine whether testing is needed.
Dr. Verna Yiu, CEO of Alberta Health Services, said more than 10,000 people accessed the self-assessment tool in the two-hour period after it launched Friday afternoon. By Saturday around 4 p.m., Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer, said it had received more than 300,000 hits.
“At this time, anyone requiring testing will still need to be referred to an assessment centre depending on the result of the online assessment,” said Health
Minister Tyler Shandro. “AHS hopes to enhance the tool’s capacity to include appointment and test booking in the very near future.”
Shandro said calls to Health Link 811 have jumped by 152 per cent. with approximately 6,300 callers per day. Wait times remain high for the service, averaging about an hour, with peak times between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and 6 and 10 p.m.
To reduce wait times, AHS is currently training additional clinical staff to man the phones and are directing Albertans to use the self-assessment tool when possible before calling the service.
Shandro said Health Link 811 staff has doubled from 35 to 72 staff members and phone lines have increased from 60 to 182.
Currently, AHS said individuals do not need to be tested for COVID -19 if they have not travelled outside of Canada or had contact in the past 14 days with someone who is diagnosed.
Anyone who has symptoms including a cough, runny nose, fever or sore throat is recommended to self-isolate for 14 days.
In public, people are asked to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus by washing hands frequently, maintaining a distance of about two metres from other people, cover coughs and sneezes, and avoid touching your face.