Pharmacies to offer swabs
A patient at an Edmonton hospital has died of COVID -19, Alberta’s top doctor announced Thursday, marking the province’s first death of a patient who acquired the novel coronavirus while in acute care.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the patient, a man in his 80s, was at the Misericordia Community Hospital, which has an outbreak that has infected six patients and five staff members.
She stressed that Albertans shouldn’t fear going to hospitals and said those on the affected unit at Misericordia are being tested as a precaution.
“We’ve been in this COVID response for almost four months now and this is the first time that we’ve had an acute care outbreak where a transmission has occurred within that facility that’s affected patients,” Hinshaw said.
The new death brings Alberta’s total to 154, including 112 in the Alberta Health Services Calgary zone.
Also Thursday, Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced that testing for the coronavirus would expand to some community pharmacies. Previously, testing has only been available through AHS.
Shandro said that 20 pharmacies, mostly in Calgary and Edmonton, would begin offering testing within days for people who do not have COVID -19 symptoms and have not had any known exposure to the disease. Involved pharmacies will receive training and be subject to strict protocols, he said. The move is meant to make getting tested more convenient.
“This is a step that just makes sense. Pharmacists are highly trained health professionals,” Shandro said. “Testing is well within pharmacists’ scope of practice and of competence.”
Much like AHS tests, the pharmacy test will be a throat swab that will then be sent for laboratory analysis. Shandro said the expansion should bring Alberta’s testing capacity to 16,000 tests each day.
If piloting the program at the 20 pharmacies goes well, he said, the program will expand to other pharmacies.
In recent weeks, Alberta has consistently processed more than 5,000 tests daily, hitting highs of more than 9,000 tests in a single day.
On Thursday, the province announced it had completed more than 6,300 tests since the previous day, detecting 26 new cases — about a 0.4 per cent positive rate.
A total of 506 cases remain active, including 207 in the AHS Calgary zone. Additionally, 7,191 Albertans have officially recovered from the coronavirus.
As of Thursday, 38 Albertans remain in hospital with COVID-19, eight of whom are receiving treatment in intensive-care units, a slight increase in both metrics from Wednesday.
Hinshaw stressed that while the risk for severe outcomes is more common in older demographics, COVID-19 can be dangerous for younger Albertans as well.
“The average age of COVID-19 infections in Alberta is 39. No one is immune to COVID-19, and currently, there are four Edmontonians in hospital under the age of 30,” she said. “These patients do not have any underlying health conditions and yet they are very sick.
“This is another reminder that COVID -19 does not discriminate.”
One recent COVID-19 outbreak that illustrates that is at the Verve Condominium highrise in Calgary’s East Village. There, 32 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, with 27 of those cases still active. Three otherwise healthy residents of that building were hospitalized, Hinshaw said. The virus is thought to have spread through high-touch surfaces.
She urged Albertans not to stigmatize those involved in outbreaks, saying it can discourage people from getting tested.
With summer officially here and Canada Day in less than a week, Hinshaw asked people to avoid barbecues and pot lucks and instead to bring their own food and drink, and to hold gatherings outside.
“The virus is still here, and we know gatherings can help to spread it,” she said.
“COVID-19 loves a party, so we can’t let our guard down.”
Also Thursday, Hinshaw hosted a livestream question-and-answer session with Education Minister Adriana Lagrange, who said Alberta would commit to a backto-school plan for the upcoming school year by Aug. 1. The province announced last month three potential scenarios for reopening schools, depending on the status of Alberta’s COVID-19 fight.
During the Q and A, Hinshaw said any students who were in close contact with a classmate who tests positive for the coronavirus will need to stay home from school for two weeks.
But chances are low that a whole school would have to temporarily shut its doors.
“It’s unlikely that we would be needing to close a school for a small number of cases because we could handle it through the typical public-health measures,” Hinshaw said.
A man at Edmonton’s Misericordia Community Hospital has become the first Alberta patient to die after contracting COVID-19 while in care.