Last updated December 1, 2020 3:35 p.m.
What Should I Do if I Think I Have COVID-19?|About COVID-19|Spread|Risk| How to Care for COVID-19 Patient at Home| Resources for Specific Health Conditions| How to Prepare|Physical Distancing|Mass Gatherings & Schools|Travellers|Prevention|Symptoms|COVID-19 vs. Influenza| Test Results & Next Steps|Changes in Health Services
Latest News from Alberta.ca
Latest news releases and actions being taken to protect the health of Albertans. (more)
What Should I Do If I Think I Have COVID-19?
- If you have returned from travel outside of Canada or have been in close contact with a known case you MUST self-isolate for 14 days following your return/exposure and monitor yourself for symptoms.
- If you have symptoms you MUST self-isolate for 10 days after the onset of symptoms and until your symptoms have resolved (whichever is longer).
- Complete the COVID-19 Self-Assessment to determine if you should receive testing for COVID-19. As of October 14, 2020 drop-in testing is no longer available.
- If you are quarantined because you recently came back from outside the country, or you are a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19, you must remain on your own property. Under no circumstance should you leave your property during the 14 days of self-isolation.
- Most of Alberta's family physicians are continuing to provide services during COVID-19.
- Patients should continue to consult with their family physician for non-urgent health concerns, including care for chronic conditions and any new health concerns unrelated to COVID-19.
- Please call your physician's office before attending in person to determine whether in-person or virtual care is the best option. If you do not have a family doctor, please visit AlbertaFindADoctor.ca.
- If your symptoms worsen, have concerns about your health or questions about COVID-19, call 811.
- Call 911 if you are seriously ill and need immediate medical attention. Inform them that you may have COVID-19.
If you are in mandatory self-isolation:
- Do not go outside for a walk through your neighbourhood or park. This includes children in mandatory self-isolation.
- You can get fresh air in your backyard, if you have one, but you must remain on private property not accessible by others.
- If you live in an apartment building or highrise, you must stay inside and cannot use the elevators or stairwells to go outside. If your balcony is private and at least two metres away from your closest neighbour's, you may go outside on the balcony.
- This directive is consistent with the new federal requirements under the Quarantine Act.
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Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause respiratory illness in people, ranging from mild common colds to severe illnesses. Others cause illness in animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people, and more rarely, these can then spread from person to person through close contact. Novel coronaviruses are new strains of the virus that have not been previously identified in humans.
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COVID-19 is believed to be spread mainly by coughing, sneezing or direct contact with someone who is sick with COVID-19 or with surfaces they have recently touched.
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A higher risk does currently apply to people who develop a fever, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, sore throat or runny nose AND meet any of the criteria below.
In the 14 days before illness onset, they:
Travelled to anywhere outside of Canada;
Had close contact* with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19;
Had close contact* with a person with acute respiratory illness who has travelled anywhere outside of Canada within 14 days prior to illness onset;
Had laboratory exposure to biological material (e.g. primary clinical specimens, virus culture isolates) known to contain COVID-19 virus.
Anyone meeting these criteria should avoid contact with others and call Health Link 811 for advice.
* A close contact is defined as a person who provided care for the individual, including healthcare workers, family members or other caregivers, or who had other similar close physical contact with the person without consistent and appropriate use of personal protective equipment OR who lived with or otherwise had close prolonged contact (within two metres) with the person while they were infectious OR had direct contact with infectious bodily fluids of the person (e.g. was coughed or sneezed on) while not wearing recommended personal protective equipment.
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How to Care for a COVID-19 Patient at Home
If you are caring for a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, follow this advice to protect yourself and others in the home, as well as those in your community.
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Resources for Specific Health Conditions
This section contains resources for Albertans and caregivers dealing with specific health conditions and disabilities/special needs
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How to Prepare & Respond
Alberta public health officials are recommending Albertans prepare and respond to COVID-19 by creating a household plan of action:
- Talk with the people who need to be included in your plan. Have these conversations over the phone, by email or text. Follow physical distancing guidelines.
- Talk to your household members, relatives, friends and neighbours about what the needs of each person will be, if they need to enter self-isolation or are diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Plan ways to care for those who might be at greater risk for serious complications. This includes practical steps like ensuring you have sufficient medication and determining what supplies are needed, and if they can be delivered.
- Talk with your neighbors about emergency planning, and how you can help each other to stay safe and healthy – or support one another if your household or theirs is required to self-isolate. Again, have these conversations over the phone, by email or text – following physical distancing guidelines.
- Regularly reach out to those in self-isolation. A lack of social contact can cause mental health challenges, and we need to support those most vulnerable.
- Create a list of local organizations that you and your household can contact in the event you need access to information, health care services, support, and resources.
- Create an emergency contact list.
Practice good personal health habits and plan for home-based actions:
- Practice everyday preventive actions, like those listed in the prevention section.
- Choose a room in your home that can be used to separate sick household members from those who are healthy. Identify a separate bathroom for the sick person to use, if possible. Plan to clean these rooms, as needed, when someone is sick, following the Cleaning Guidelines available above.
Plan for potential changes at your workplace.
- Learn about your employer’s emergency operations plan.
- Ask about what sick-leave policies and telework options are available if needed.
Stockpiling of goods is not recommended at this time. While it’s always best practice to have three days worth of supplies on-hand, public health officials are not recommending Albertans purchase food or other materials in bulk.
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All Albertans are asked to practice physical distancing to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Physical distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people you come into close contact with. It can help you reduce your risk of getting sick, and help prevent spreading the virus to others.
This is not the same as self-isolation. You do not need to remain indoors, but you do need to avoid being in close contact with people.
To protect yourself and others:
- Keep at least 6 feet (the length of a bicycle) from others when going out for groceries, medical trips and other essential needs
- Limit the number of times you leave your home for errands
- Try to shop at less busy times
- Order online to have groceries or other items delivered if possible
- Go for a walk in your neighborhood or park while maintaining distance from others
- Avoid overcrowding in elevators or other enclosed spaces
- Follow Alberta’s recommendations on mass gatherings
- Wash or sanitize your hands after touching communal surfaces
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Public Health Restrictions (Mass Gatherings & Schools)
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Alberta has implemented public health restrictions. The province is currently in Stage 2 of relaunch.
Targeted Public Health Measures - updated November 24, 2020
Events & Gatherings
Effective November 24, 2020: No indoor social gatherings are permitted in any setting. Outdoor social gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people.
Events continue to pose a high risk of potential spread of COVID-19.
All event organizers should be aware of the risks, take proactive steps to ensure all public health guidance is in place to reduce risk, and know their obligations ahead of time.
Event organizers, use the guidance at ahs.ca/events to help plan a safe public or private event or gathering.
Check with your local municipality for additional restrictions in your area.
For current gathering restrictions in Alberta, refer to Alberta.ca
See guidance on permitted activities, activities not permitted, and high risk activities.
A COVID-19 cohort – also known as bubbles, circles, or safe squads – is a small group of the same people who can interact regularly without staying 2 metres apart.
A person in a cohort should avoid close contact with people outside of the cohort.
For current guidance on cohort groups, refer to Alberta.ca
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Contact with a Confirmed Case of COVID-19
If you were in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days, regardless of which country you were in, you are directed to self-isolate and limit your contact with others for 14 days. Call Health Link 811 for additional advice.
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Info for Travellers
Albertans are NOT recommended to travel outside of the country at this time.
If you are travelling and require testing as proof of negative COVID-19 status, all Albertans can access a new COVID travel testing service, offered by Dynalife Medical Labs, for $150/traveler.
Additional Resources for Travelers:
Returning to Alberta
- Effective March 25, the Government of Canada has implemented a mandatory 14-day quarantine, under the Quarantine Act, for travellers returning to Canada.
- ALL travellers who returned to Alberta from outside Canada in the last 14 days are required to self-isolate immediately for 14 days after the date of return and monitor for symptoms.
- If you are quarantined because you recently came back from outside the country, or you are a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19, you must have a quarantine plan and you must remain at your quarantine location. Under no circumstance should you leave your quarantine location during the 14 days of self-isolation except in emergencies.
If you have symptoms:
- Anyone who has symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, sore throat, runny nose or nasal congestion MUST self-isolate for 14 days and complete the online assessment for COVID-19 testing.
- With the exception of seeking COVID-19 testing and during emergencies, under no circumstance should you leave your quarantine during the 14 days of self-isolation. If your symptoms worsen, have concerns about your health or questions about COVID-19, call 811. If you need immediate medical attention, call 911 and advise them that you may have COVID-19.
Follow these self-isolation guidelines, and call Health Link 811 with questions.
Further information for travellers returning to work and school can be found on the Alberta COVID-19 website.
NEW: International Border Pilot Testing Program (Effective November 2, 2020)
A pilot project between the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada provides a new option for travelers entering Alberta through either the Calgary International Airport or the Coutts Border Crossing.
Specifically, asymptomatic international travelers arriving at the Calgary International Airport or the Coutts Border Crossing (between 0900 and 2100hrs), and either residing in Alberta or staying within Alberta for the duration of their visit to Canada, will be provided with the opportunity to sign-up for this pilot and be excluded from the full duration and scope of the mandatory 14 day isolation period currently in place for all international travelers coming into Canada.
Overview of Pilot Process
- Potential participants apply to the pilot project using a (non-AHS) third-party web-based application prior to their arrival in Alberta;
- Those selected for the pilot are then swabbed at the Calgary International Airport or Coutts border, immediately upon arrival; Symptomatic or COVID-positive applicants will not be permitted to participate.
- Participants are required to enter their symptoms into the third-party app, every day for the first seven days.
- Participants will receive their test result by email or text message. If you choose to receive your test result by email, the message will be encrypted for your privacy. Learn more about viewing encrypted test results.
- If on the sixth or seventh day the participant remains asymptomatic, the participant must call a participating pharmacy to book an appointment to obtain a second swab.
- NOTE: Pilot participants who develop symptoms will be referred to www.ahs.ca/ibptest to book a test through AHS. Participating Pharmacies will not swab symptomatic individuals.
- If the second swab is negative, participants will continue to symptom track in the online app for the remaining seven days, and return to most normal activities; however, it is important to note that despite negative COVID results, participants cannot enter a hospital or congregate or group living environment, be in contact with individuals who are at risk of more severe disease, or attend gatherings of more than 10 people, until the full 14 days has passed.
- If second swab is positive: participants must self-isolate immediately, and follow all guidance of AHS Public Health.
Find more information on the pilot project.
Please note: AHS and Covenant employees, members of the medical and midwifery staff, students, volunteers, and contracted service providers, will be permitted to participate in the pilot program; however, they will not be permitted to return to work at any AHS, Covenant, or community locations, including licensed supportive living facilities or any residential facility offering hospice services, until 14 days after returning from travel outside of Canada.
These individuals must adhere to the AHS and employer fit for work screening and the isolation requirements as determined by the return to work decision chart. Where feasible, working remotely while isolating may be permitted with leader approval.
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To help protect you and your family against all respiratory illnesses, including flu and COVID-19, you should:
Effective November 24, 2020: Masks are required in all indoor workplaces in Edmonton, Calgary and the surrounding communities.
When sick, wearing a mask helps prevent us from passing illnesses on to other people. This is why we ask people who have a cough or respiratory symptoms to wear a mask and wash their hands when visiting an emergency department or clinic.
Wearing a non-medical mask, such as a homemade cloth mask, has not been proven to protect the person wearing it. However, wearing a non-medical mask may be helpful in protecting others around you. This is because face coverings are another way to cover your mouth and nose to prevent respiratory droplets from contaminating other people or surfaces. Additionally, wearing a mask may stop you from touching your nose and mouth.
When wearing a non-medical mask or face covering:
- Ensure your mask is well-fitted and does not gape at the sides.
- Be aware that masks can become contaminated on the outside. Avoid moving or adjusting the mask. Assume the mask has been contaminated and take proper precautions.
- Critically, if you wear a mask, you must wash your hands before putting it on, as well as before and after taking it off.
- Cloth masks should be worn only a short time, as there is some evidence that they can trap virus particles after they become damp, which may put the wearer at greater risk.
- For those choosing to wear non-medical masks, it may be prudent to carry a bag with several clean masks in it, as well as a plastic bag that can be used to safely store used masks until they can be washed at home.
- It is critical that used masks be carefully handled to avoid spreading infection to others.
- See appropriate infection prevention and control precautions for health-care settings
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Symptoms for COVID-19 are similar to those for influenza or other respiratory illnesses. See below for symptoms for adults, children and everyone.
Anyone over the age of 18 who has the following symptoms are legally required to self-isolate and should be tested for COVID-19.
- new onset of cough or worsening chronic cough
- new or worsening shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- sore throat
- runny nose
If you are not tested for COVID-19, you MUST self-isolate for 10 days following the start of these symptoms and until you are feeling better (whichever is longer). If you are tested, further instructions are available at ahs.ca/results based on your test results.
People with other symptoms are also recommended to be tested. These include:
- painful swallowing
- stuffy nose
- muscle or joint ache
- feeling unwell, fatigue or severe exhaustion
- nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or unexplained loss of appetite
- loss of sense of smell or taste
- conjunctivitis (pink eye)
If you have these symptoms, it is strongly advised that you stay home and minimize contact with others until you are feeling better. Complete the COVID-19 Self-Assessment choosing the COVID-19 Testing / Online Booking button for more information.
Symptoms of runny nose and sore throat have been removed from the mandatory isolation checklist for Albertans under 18, as well as individuals 18 years and over attending high school, whether they are attending classes, day care or recreational activities.
For a child with no known exposures to COVID-19 or international travel in the past 14 days:
- If the child has any of the following symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath or loss of sense of smell or taste:
- The child is to isolate for 10 days from onset of symptoms.
- Testing is recommended.
- If the child has a negative test result and they are feeling better, they can resume normal activities, even if the 10 days is not completed.
If the child has ONE of: chills; sore throat or painful swallowing; runny nose or congestion; feeling unwell or fatigue; nausea, vomiting, diarrhea; unexplained loss of appetite; muscle or joint aches; headache; conjunctivitis:
- The child should stay home and monitor for 24 hours.
- If their symptom is improving after 24 hours, they can return to school/activities when they feel well enough to go. Testing is not necessary.
- If the symptom worsens after 24 hours (or if additional symptoms emerge), testing is recommended but not required. The child can return to activities and school when:
- their symptoms have resolved AND it’s been at least 24 hours since their symptoms started.
If the child has any TWO of: chills; sore throat or painful swallowing; runny nose or congestion; feeling unwell or fatigue; nausea, vomiting, diarrhea; unexplained loss of appetite; muscle or joint aches; headache; conjunctivitis:
- The child should stay home.
- Testing is recommended but not required.
- The child can attend school/daycare and other public places when their symptoms have resolved AND it’s been 24 hours or more since their symptoms started.
The child with any symptoms should not visit a congregate living or acute care facility for 10 days from when symptom(s) started or until they go away (whichever is longer), unless they receive a negative COVID-19 test result and are feeling better.
Everyone (including those under 18 years of age) in mandatory isolation and in need of COVID-19 testing, or critical care for pre-existing medical conditions or emergency care, should carefully follow the rules in the exemption orders.
- Pre-arrange your appointment and leaving your isolation area only on the date and at the time of your appointment.
- Follow all instructions provided by 811 or health-care providers.
- Use private transportation where practical.
- Maintain physical distance from others when shared transportation is necessary – travel directly to your appointment with no stops.
- Follow instructions provided by 911 if you require emergency care.
If you need immediate medical attention, call 911 and advise them that you may have COVID-19. Do not visit a hospital, doctor’s office, lab or healthcare facility for non-urgent medical needs without consulting Health Link 811 first.
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COVID-19 vs. Influenza
In some ways, COVID-19 is similar to influenza (also known as the flu):
- Both COVID-19 and the flu cause respiratory disease.
- Both are spread the same way, via small droplets from the nose and mouth.
- Neither one is spread through the air over long distances and times, unlike a disease like the measles.
However, there are some key differences between COVID-19 and the flu:
- The flu and COVID-19 are different viruses.
- Both have similar symptoms and it can be difficult to tell the difference between influenza and COVID-19 symptoms.
- COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than influenza.
- We currently have no specific vaccine or treatment for COVID-19.
- COVID-19 causes severe disease in a higher percentage of cases than seasonal influenza. Estimates of mortality in COVID-19 cases depend on many things, but on average they range from about 1-2 deaths per 100 people infected. By comparison, seasonal influenza is deadly in about 1 in every 1000 who are infected.
- Because COVID-19 can cause such a serious illness, it is critical to keep it from spreading by having people with a cough or fever stay home and away from others.
Find more information on symptoms of COVID-19.
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Test Results & Next Steps
If you have had a nasopharyngeal (NP) swab to test for COVID-19, while you are awaiting your results you are required to remain in self-isolation, at home. While at home, please also continue to follow good respiratory etiquette, and good hand hygiene practices.
Find more information on Advice for People Tested for COVID-19.
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Changes in Health Services
As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, AHS is adjusting our response measures and supports. We continue to ensure we have the capacity to handle the anticipated surge in patients related to COVID-19.
Decisions have been made while ensuring AHS has the staff, equipment (including personal protective equipment) and beds available for any changes which may result in increased demand on our healthcare system caused by COVID-19.
We recognize that these are difficult, stressful times and that any change in service may be concerning. Our number one priority is protecting the health of Albertans, and in this extraordinary situation, we must take significant steps to do so.
Edmonton Zone Update
COVID-19 activity is continuing to increase in Edmonton and the surrounding area and this is impacting system capacity.
On October 23, 2020, Edmonton Zone will postponed approximately 30 per cent of scheduled surgeries, adjusting ambulatory visits as required and accessing support from other Zones if needed. Urgent, emergent and cancer surgeries will continue.
Taking these additional measures provide additional system capacity and enable the continued provision of safe patient care
We are committed to meeting the established surgical targets for the year and have plans in place to resume surgery volumes. The postponed surgeries will be rescheduled as soon as possible.
Resumption of Diagnostic Imaging and Ambulatory Clinic Services
- Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Covenant Health have resumed Diagnostic Imaging (DI) and Ambulatory Clinic services.
- During the early part of the pandemic, we saw a planned reduction in “in person” patients seen in DI services across the zones by up to approximately 60 per cent with a commensurate increase in virtual visits.
- DI is often a key component in both ambulatory and surgical care and DI services have resumed to support these areas.
- Patients attending a scheduled appointment will receive a pre-screening phone call to assess fitness to attend appointments and will be given instruction for attendance based on provincial public health guidelines. In cases where patients cannot be reached, they will be screened upon arrival for their appointments. Patients attending appointments for Ambulatory Care or DI will also need to follow the AHS visitor guidelines.
- To be successful during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been following a cautious and phased approach to the resumption of services with the safety of patients and staff at the forefront.
- We are grateful for the patience of those Albertans who had their in person visits and procedures delayed following our decision to postpone non urgent ambulatory care during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are making every effort to contact these patients to discuss re-scheduling options.
- The safety of patients and staff is of utmost importance. To ensure we maintain adequate resources over and above the requirements for COVID-19, we will continue to conduct weekly assessments of the service resumption plans and adapt as required. We will maintain all current COVID-19 public health orders and infection prevention and control standards and processes, including physical distancing, continuous masking and visitor guidelines.
- At all times we will continue to reserve sufficient capacity to respond to the pandemic.
Surgical Recovery Plan
- AHS is currently operating at 88 per cent of pre-COVID-19 surgical activity and will increase this activity as part of a Surgical Recovery Plan developed and aligned with the Alberta Surgical Initiative (ASI).
- AHS postponed all non-urgent, scheduled surgeries in March to free up hospital beds in advance of an expected surge in patients with COVID-19. Some of these postponed activities resumed in May.
- We are grateful for the patience of those Albertans who had their surgeries and procedures delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- It was a necessary step to ensure our healthcare system was prepared for COVID-19.
- Working in partnership with Alberta Health with this Surgical Recovery Plan, we are ensuring patients and families receive the surgery they need, when they need it, according to best practices and target benchmarks.
- The plan can be adjusted, as necessary, to help the health system respond to potential increased health system demand caused by COVID-19.
- Safety is the utmost priority and increases in surgery activity will happen providing it is safe and appropriate to do so.
- We will continue to ensure emergent and urgent surgeries are maintained while steadily increasing the number of surgeries, balancing the safety of patients and staff with the need to resume surgeries for Albertans waiting for care.
- Decisions on which surgeries proceed are based on clinical need and those being most in need and waiting longest being booked first. These decisions are being made at the zone level, and are also informed by the pandemic response in different parts of the province.
- Patients will be contacted directly when it is time to receive their surgery.
- We will maintain all current COVID-19 public health orders and infection prevention and control standards and processes, including physical distancing and visitor guidelines.
- We understand that many of you will be anxious to hear from AHS on your surgery or procedure. We ask for your patience. Please do not call 811 or the clinic for information. You will be contacted by AHS.
Request to Cease Non-Essential Laboratory Testing
- We are working hard to deploy our laboratory resources in the safest and most efficient way possible as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- We are asking physicians and community providers to help us in relieving the strain on the laboratory system.
- Alberta Precision Laboratories (APL) and DynaLIFE strongly recommend immediate cessation of non-essential and routine laboratory testing.
- Patients who require bloodwork that is critical to their immediate care will continue to receive testing.
- Mobile Collection Services in the province will prioritize work and focus on patients with the highest medical needs.
- This request is consistent with advice from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) that was communicated on March 23:
“All diagnostic facilities and non-hospital surgical facilities are being advised not to engage in any procedures or patient visits that are not considered to be urgent in nature. All elective and non-urgent visits and procedures should be postponed.”
- Pausing non-essential testing will help:
- Alleviate the strain on the laboratory system at a time when we are directing many of our lab resources towards testing for COVID-19.
- Follow the recommendations of the Chief Medical Officer with regards to physical distancing by ensuring staff do not have to closely interact with patients unless necessary.
- Free up capacity to still provide critical bloodwork for the patients that need it most.
- Patients can also help by postponing attending lab Patient Service Centres or other collection sites with requisitions for routine and non-urgent lab work.
- APL and DynaLIFE are thankful for the cooperation and support of our patients, community physicians and other frontline care providers in responding to this request.
AHS and Alberta Health will provide updates as new information becomes available.
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