PCR COVID testing limited

Leader staff

As of January 10, only high risk individuals (and a few others) can be tested for COVID-19 with a PCR test. These include newborns born to parents with COVID, seniors, people eligible for a ‘monoclonal antibody’ treatment, and others.

“To ensure that patient care decisions are supported by timely diagnostic information, PCR testing eligibility will now be focused on those who have clinical risk factors for severe outcomes and those who live and work in high-risk settings,” says an Alberta government news release. Before the change, people had to wait up to four days for a test.

As the Omicron variant is so prevalent at the moment, anyone with any symptoms should assume they have COVID and isolate, says Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta chief medical officer of health. The isolation requirements depend on a person’s vaccine status. These are five (or 10 days) or when there are no symptoms, whichever is longer.

Eligibility criteria

Effective immediately, PCR tests will be available only for the following individuals:

  • Continuing care residents and health-care workers and staff in acute and continuing care settings, shelters and correctional facilities who meet one or more of the following criteria: need confirmation of a positive rapid test on screening, have COVID-19 symptoms, and are part of an outbreak investigation where public health has requested lab-based PCR testing.
  • Symptomatic household members of a person who works in continuing care or acute care.
  • Asymptomatic continuing care residents returning/readmitted from other health-care settings.
  • Emergency department or hospital patients of all ages who meet one or more of the following criteria: inpatients who develop new COVID-19 symptoms while in hospital, patients being admitted for symptoms consistent with COVID-19, and patients in the emergency department with respiratory illness where a test will change treatment plans.
  • Symptomatic community patients who would be eligible for Sotrovimab (monoclonal antibody) treatment if positive: these are pregnant women, children aged 12 to 17 (referred by a pediatrician), 55 and older who are not immunized, or 18 years and older with one of the following health conditions: diabetes, obesity, chronic kidney disease, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or moderate to severe asthma.
  • Those who are immunosuppressed (transplant, active cancer or systemic immune treatment), regardless if immunized or not.
  • People from remote First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities, and individuals travelling to these communities for work.
  • Pediatric and adult asymptomatic transplant donors and recipients, prior to transplant.
  • Pediatric and adult oncology patients, prior to commencing chemotherapy.
  • Newborns born to COVID-19-positive parents.
  • Returning international travellers who become symptomatic within 14 days after their arrival to look for new variants.

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