Local News

Changes made to PCR eligibility 

Changes made to PCR eligibility pic 1

PCR testing is now available only to high-risk Albertans 

The province is changing COVID PCR test eligibility due to high demand.

Daily PCR testing volumes are beginning to exceed system capacity. Wait times for booking a PCR test are now approaching four days and turnaround time for providing results to patients is approaching 48 hours, a government media release said.

PCR testing is now focused on those who are at high risk of having a severe outcome, or those who live and work in high-risk settings.

“Like other provinces, Alberta’s testing resources have increasingly become stretched, and with the rising number of COVID cases due to Omicron, we now need to focus this testing capacity strategically to those most at risk of serious illness from COVID,” minister of health Jason Copping said.

Effective immediately, PCR tests are available to individuals in continuing care settings or healthcare workers who need confirmation of a positive rapid test on screening, have COVID symptoms, or are part of an outbreak investigation. 

Symptomatic household members of a person who works in continuing care or acute care, emergency department or hospital patients are also eligible to be tested if they develop COVID symptoms in hospital along with patients who are admitted for COVID symptoms, or patients in the emergency department with a respiratory illness where a test will change treatment plans.

Those who are not immunized and are over 55 years of age, 18 years of age with a pre-existing health condition, children aged 12 to 17, with a referral by a pediatric I.D. specialist, anyone who is pregnant, and immunosuppressed are also eligible to be tested. 

Along with asymptomatic continuing care residents returning from other healthcare settings and returning international travellers who become symptomatic within 14 days after their arrival, the media release said.

“While we have been used to managing COVID through widespread PCR testing, that approach is not possible with the Omicron variant. At this time, most people who have mild symptoms don’t need a PCR test. For those without risk factors such as immunosuppression, they should self-isolate and manage their symptoms at home, using a rapid test if they have one,” the chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.

The online COVID-19 assessment tool has been updated to help Albertans determine if they need a PCR test, what type of care they need, and how to treat symptoms at home with proper support. 

The province is reminding anyone with mild illness not to visit emergency departments seeking a test. 

If unsure whether they need to talk to a doctor about their illness, they can also use the Alberta Medical Association tool to determine what they should do. 

Employers and organizations are reminded to support employees who are sick, by not requiring individuals with mild symptoms to have a PCR test to be eligible for sick time off work, the release said. 

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