Asymptomatic COVID-19 testing and what you should know

Since early June, every Albertan has been eligible to receive testing for the novel coronavirus whether symptomatic or not.

As of Wednesday, Alberta had completed 409,352 tests for COVID-19.

Priority is still given to people with symptoms or a known close contact, but those who don’t meet that criteria can still be screened.

“For asymptomatic, people who don’t have any symptoms, I think it comes back to whether they think they might have had an exposure somehow, somewhere and they’re concerned about potentially, possibly spreading it to their contacts,” said Dr. David Strong, a medical health officer with Alberta’s communicable disease program.

The testing process begins by filling out the Alberta Health Services (AHS) COVID-19 online assessment.

Once complete, you can book your testing appointment online, with the site referring you to the nearest screening site.

Many testing sites, like the one at the Community Health Train Station in Lethbridge, are drive-up, with a health worker in full PPE conducting a throat swab at your vehicle.

Earlier COVID-19 tests were conducted through the nose, but the primary method in Alberta has since changed to the back of the throat.

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Dr. Strong said that decision was based on factors like swab supplies and ease of testing.

“Because we’ve had to recruit (and) deploy staff that don’t normally do this kind of work — they’re still health professionals but not normally doing this — it’s much easier for them to do a throat swab than a nasal pharyngeal swab,” he said.

Once testing is complete most Albertans can expect to receive their result within about two days.

Those who test positive will receive an in-person phone call. Negative test results will be provided via automated message.

Dr. Strong said it’s important to note COVID-19 tests can only offer a point-in-time snapshot as to whether or not you are currently infected and warns even with expanded testing eligibility, Albertans cannot be complacent.

“We’re moving into a period where our numbers are low, so the likelihood of somebody getting into contact and getting infected is pretty low,” he said.

“We still need to be really following those guidelines around social distancing and, again, doing the followup if you actually develop symptoms.”

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