Alberta is massively expanding testing eligibility. On Monday, May 4, Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced that a bunch of new symptoms have now been added to the testing criteria. Albertans experiencing any of the new COVID-19 symptoms are now eligible to be tested.
Dr. Hinshaw, Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health, delivered the news in her daily press conference on COVID-19.
"Individuals who have any of these following symptoms are eligible for testing," she explained.
The symptoms include fever, chills, a new or worsening cough, a new or worsening case of difficulty breathing, sore throat, painful swallowing, stuffy or runny nose, headaches, muscle or joint aches, feeling unwell in general, new fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, or unexplained loss of appetite, taste or smell.
Even conjunctivitis or pink eye has been listed as a potential symptom for COVID-19.
"Our aggressive testing approach is helping us identify cases quickly," said Dr. Hinshaw.
The province's top doctor said that this move to include more symptoms is further reinforcing the province's ability to detect more cases.
The self-assessment tool on the AHS website has been updated accordingly, so anyone experiencing any of these symptoms can take the assessment and figure out whether they need to contact Alberta Health at 811.
"This expanded list is based on new and emerging information on the virus," said Dr. Hinshaw.
She stated that adding these symptoms will allow the province to be more confident to identify these cases as early as possible.
She explained that the individuals showing most of these "unusual" new symptoms make up a "small percentage" of the total number of cases.
However, emerging evidence has shown that a number of people remain asymptomatic throughout the course of their infection.
While most people who get COVID-19 will eventually feel sick, some will not at all, said the top doctor.
In order to catch these asymptomatic cases, the province is also expanding testing capacity to include close contacts of confirmed cases, whether they're feeling symptoms or not.
"This is a necessary step," she said.
The health official also told the public that a person testing negative for COVID-19 doesn't mean the person is in the clear.
They could still go on to become positive and infect others, which is why close contacts of confirmed cases still need to go into self-isolation for 14 days.
The province announced 70 new cases and 9 new deaths on May 4, bringing Alberta's total to 5,836 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 104 deaths due to complications from the disease.
As of now, the priority is detecting cases and exposures as efficiently as possible.