Anyone in Alberta with a runny nose, cough, fever or sore threat – all symptoms of COVID-19 – is now eligible for testing.
The province has the capacity to test about 7,400 people every 24 hours, said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, on Monday.
“You’ve previously heard me say we were not able to test every Albertan with a cough or runny nose, but we believe we’re now at a point that we can do so,” said Hinshaw.
The doctor said the goal is to increase capacity to about 9,000 tests by the end of the month, and by mid-May, to about 20,000 per day.
The Alberta government declared 81 new COVID-19 cases Monday, bringing the provincial total to 1,732.
Officials reported two additional deaths Monday, bringing the total number to 46. The two recent deaths are in the Calgary zone.
The central zone has 74 cases of COVID-19 as of Monday, an increase of two since Sunday.
The city of Red Deer has 32 cases: 12 active and 20 recovered.
The City of Lacombe has two recovered cases, while Lacombe County has four recovered cases.
Red Deer County has 12 cases: six active and six recovered.
Ponoka County has one recovered case, and so does Clearwater County.
The Calgary zone has 1,114 confirmed cases, followed by Edmonton at 399. The north and south zone case numbers are 105 and 33, respectively.
The number of recovered cases in the province is at 877 – 54 more than on Sunday.
Of the total cases, officials believe about 254 are a result of community transmission.
With the increased testing, the every day case numbers may increase, Hinshaw said. The overall per cent of confirmed cases remains about the same, however.
“The percentage of tests that have come back positive has been about two per cent for the past several weeks. This indicates the rate of infection has remained relatively stable over the last while,” she said.
“Another thing we look at is the rate of hospitalization, which is currently a more accurate indicator of the trend than our total case numbers. This is because, as I mentioned, our total case numbers are determined by our testing eligibility, which has changed over the past 10 days.”
Soon, the province will release hospitalization trends to provide a better picture of the spread over the past several weeks, she said.
Alberta’s every day case numbers are lower than theoretical modelling, but personal distancing has to continue, Hinshaw said. She encouraged Albertans to keep doing the right thing.
“The reason we’re more successful than other jurisdictions is because Albertans have and are more willing to make sacrifices, to protect their neighbours and their loved ones.
“This distancing will not last forever and we’re in active discussions about what kinds of things we might be able to ease up on if we continue to have a trend of numbers that are declining over a several-week period.”
She said if the measures are lifted “too soon, we could undo all of the work and all of the sacrifices we’ve collectively made to get to this point.”
Hinshaw said she believes events and other large gatherings, where people come together in one place, will be restricted for some time.
“However, restrictions like other activities and workplaces, we’re looking at that (to see) how we can ease off on those in the appropriate time.”