Alberta is working to get more rapid COVID-19 test kits into communities and workplaces across the province.
Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced Thursday the government will be deploying close to one million rapid tests to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Shandro said 325,000 of those tests will go to oil and gas workers, as well as 100,000 to a new school pilot program and 56,000 for bankers, telecommunication workers and transportation.
Shandro added discussions are underway to provide rapid tests to meat-processing plants in the province.
“This adds to the protections to prevent more lives lost. A year into the pandemic we have many tools, including rapid testing, to use in our fight against COVID-19,” said Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
“Rapid testing is very helpful when used for frequent testing in a particular population over time. This allows it to function as a red-light test. It can be used to ensure people who test positive get a red light stop signal and don’t enter a particular workplace or community.”
Shandro added that rapid tests were used at a mobile testing site at the Olymel plant in Red Deer, which had a massive COVID-19 outbreak last month.
Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange also announced a new pilot project for rapid testing at two Calgary area schools, in order to better understand asymptomatic spread in schools.
The pilot will start next week at two schools that have experienced outbreaks.
“We are hoping to learn if this type of testing would be an effective tool to manage outbreaks,” she said.
Hinshaw said the province will be expanding COVID-19 vaccine appointments Friday.
Albertans born in 1957, 1958, 1959 and 1960 will all be able to book vaccine appointments online or by calling 811. First Nations, Métis or Inuit people born in 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1975 can all book by calling 811.
Red Deer is down from Wednesday’s 161 active cases to 135. The downward trend comes after the city reached a high of 565 active cases late last month.
Alberta reported 364 additional cases of the virus and the province sits at 4,488 active cases. Alberta’s test positivity rate was about four per cent over the past 24 hours.
There are 259 people in hospital, including 38 in intensive care across the province. There were five new deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,933 in the province.
When looking at the province’s geospatial mapping for COVID-19 cases on the municipality setting, regions are defined by metropolitan areas, cities, urban service areas, rural areas and towns with approximately 10,000 or more people; smaller regions are incorporated into the corresponding rural area.
With that setting, Red Deer County has 21 active cases of the virus, Lacombe County has 39 active and Clearwater County sits at 22 active.
Lacombe has 21 active and Sylvan Lake has 14 active cases, while Olds sits at 13 active. Mountain View County sits at 23 active, Kneehill County has three active and Drumheller has 56 active.
Camrose County has no active cases and the County of Stettler has one.
Camrose has two active cases and Wetaskiwin has nine active.
In the local geographic area setting, Wetaskiwin County, including Maskwacis, has 37 active cases. Ponoka, including east Ponoka County, has 28 active.
Rimbey, including west Ponoka County and partial Lacombe County, has 19 active cases.