COVID-19 web­site re­ceives 300,000 vis­its

Calgary Herald - - CITY+REGION - ALANNA SMITH al­smith@postmedia.com Twit­ter: @alan­na_­smithh

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.

Tyler Shan­dro

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