Information for Albertans

novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

Last updated April 7, 2020 3:40 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|Actions Being Taken

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 including fever, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, sore throat or runny nose, 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 online self-assessment to determine if you should receive testing for COVID-19
  • 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, you must remain on your own property. Under no circumstance should you leave your property during the 14 days of self-isolation.
  • Please do not visit a hospital, physician’s office, lab or healthcare facility without consulting Health Link 811 first.
  • If your symptoms worsen, call 811. We are experiencing heavy call volumes and will get to your call as quickly as we can.
  • 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 2 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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About COVID-19

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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Spread

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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Risk

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;

OR

Had close contact* with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19;

OR

Had close contact* with a person with acute respiratory illness who has travelled anywhere outside of Canada within 14 days prior to illness onset;

OR

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 2 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.

Resources:

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Physical Distancing

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

(Translated videos)

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Public Health Restrictions (Mass Gatherings & Schools)

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Alberta has implemented new public health restrictions.

  • Effective immediately, no visitors will be permitted to visit residents in Long-term Care, Supportive Living, Congregate Living and Hospice Care Settings in Alberta. Likewise, AHS is restricting all visitors to AHS Acute Care (hospital) facilities. See Information for People Visiting Patients for more information.
  • Effective immediately, student attendance at schools is prohibited.
  • Effective immediately, in-person classes at post-secondary institutions are cancelled until further notice. Campuses remain open.
  • Government is working with post-secondary institutions to ensure students are not prevented from being eligible for admission to post-secondary studies for the upcoming school year.
  • All licensed child care facilities, out-of-school care programs and preschool programs are closed indefinitely.
  • Places of worship are no longer exempt from restrictions on mass gatherings.
  • To limit the amount of time Albertans are spending in large crowds and crowded spaces, all Albertans are prohibited from attending public recreational facilities and private entertainment facilities, including gyms, swimming pools, arenas, science centres, museums, art galleries, community centres, children’s play centres, casinos, racing entertainment centres, and bingo halls.
  • Until further notice, all Albertans are restricted from attending bars and nightclubs, where minors are prohibited by law.
  • All dine-in services are prohibited. Take-out, delivery and drive-through services are still allowed.

Events

Events with more than 15 attendees are cancelled:

  • This includes large sporting events, conferences and community events, as well as worship gatherings and family events – including weddings and funerals.
  • Grocery stores, shopping centres, health-care facilities, airports, the legislature and other essential services are not included in this mandatory closure.
  • Likewise, at this time not-for-profit community kitchens, soup kitchens and religious kitchens are exempt, but sanitization practices are expected to be in place and support will be in place for this practice.

Effective March 25, the province has instituted new enforcement measures for those not respecting public health restrictions.

Find more information on 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

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, you must remain on your own property. Under no circumstance should you leave your property during the 14 days of self-isolation.

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. Under no circumstance should you leave your property during the 14 days of self-isolation. Please do not visit a hospital, physician’s office, lab or healthcare facility without consulting Health Link 811 first. If you need immediate medical attention, call 911 and advise them that you may have COVID-19.

Follow these self-isolation guidelines:

  • Avoid close contact with other people, especially those with chronic conditions, a compromised immune system, or seniors.
  • Do not attend work, school, social events or any other public gatherings.
  • Watch for symptoms like fever, cough or shortness of breath in yourself or family members.
  • If, at any time in your 14 day period of self-isolation, you develop symptoms of illness, you are required to stay home for 10 days from date of symptom onset, or until symptoms have cleared, whichever is longer. This may extend your period of self-isolation to longer than 14 days.
  • Call Health Link 811 at the first sign of symptoms. Call from home before going to a health care facility, unless severely ill.
  • If severely ill and in need of immediate medical attention call 911 and inform them that you may have COVID-19.

If you are unsure if you should be self-isolating, or if you have questions about how to do it, follow these guidelines or call Health Link 811.

Further information for travellers returning to work and school can be found on the Alberta COVID-19 website.

Departing Travellers

Albertans are NOT recommended to travel outside of the country at this time:

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Prevention

To help protect you and your family against all respiratory illnesses, including flu and COVID-19, you should:

Wearing Medical Masks

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.

If you choose to wear 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

Symptoms for COVID-19 are similar to those for influenza or other respiratory illnesses. Anyone who has symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, sore throat or runny nose MUST self-isolate for a minimum 10 days or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.

Most people (about 80%) recover from this disease without needing special treatment.

However, it can cause serious illness. Those who are older, and those with other medical problems are more likely to develop serious illness, which can include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • pneumonia

There is a risk of death in severe cases.

While we are still learning about how COVID-19 affects people, older persons and persons with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes) appear to develop serious illness more often than others.

Call Health Link 811 at the first sign of symptoms. Call from home before going to a health care facility, unless severely ill.

Anyone who is ill with influenza-like symptoms such as fever or cough is recommended to stay home for a minimum 10 days or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.

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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 in people who get sick.
  • 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:

  • COVID-19 does not appear to transmit as efficiently as influenza. Only those with symptoms seem to be mainly spreading the disease. This means that when people with symptoms are isolated, controlling spread is possible.
  • 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 must ensure we have the capacity to handle the anticipated surge in patients related to COVID-19.

  • Alberta Health Services is postponing all scheduled and elective surgeries, as well as any diagnostic imaging procedures that are considered non-urgent by the ordering physician, and reducing ambulatory services.
  • As well, Alberta Precision Laboratories (APL) and DynaLIFE are asking physicians and community providers to immediately stop all non-essential and routine laboratory testing.

These difficult decisions have been made to ensure AHS has the staff, equipment (including personal protective equipment) and beds available for the expected increased demand on our healthcare system caused by COVID-19.

Frontline teams impacted by these changes will be redeployed to other areas of the healthcare system to meet demand and ease pressure points.

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.

Postponed Scheduled & Elective Surgeries

  • Alberta Health Services is postponing all scheduled and elective surgeries that are considered non-urgent by the ordering physician.
  • Urgent and emergency surgery, as well as oncology and scheduled caesarean procedures, will continue. AHS will be contacting Albertans scheduled for procedures and will reschedule as soon as possible. We do not have a timeline for this due to the ongoing pandemic.
  • 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 called by AHS.
  • The decision to postpone surgeries and procedures will have an impact on those waiting for elective or non-urgent procedures. But it is a necessary step to ensure the healthcare system can sustain its pandemic response, and be able to respond to emergencies.

Reduction in Ambulatory Clinic Services

  • Alberta Health Services is reducing ambulatory clinic services.
  • We will work with referring physicians wherever possible to seek alternative care for patients outside of our ambulatory clinics.
  • All patients requiring urgent ambulatory care will continue to receive it.
  • By reducing our ambulatory services at this time, we are freeing up resources and care spaces that may be needed during this unforeseen time.

Diagnostic Imaging Postponements

  • Alberta Health Services is postponing some diagnostic imaging procedures.
  • Imaging that is deemed to be non-urgent by the ordering physician will be postponed.
  • Anyone needing an urgent or emergent outpatient CT and MRI scan will still receive one.
  • This will help us limit opportunities for the virus to spread.
  • AHS will evaluate all semi-urgent and routine CT and MRI requests, and those requiring immediate imaging will be re-scheduled at an outpatient, non-hospital site.
  • Any imaging not related to immediate patient treatment will be rescheduled.
  • This decision will have an impact on those waiting for a CT and/or MRI scan, and will affect people who have already spent significant time on a wait-list.
  • AHS will work closely with patients whose exams are being rescheduled, and urge them to connect with their physicians if their conditions change.

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.

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Actions Being Taken

  • On March 17 the government declared a state of public health emergency, empowering authorities under the Public Health Act to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Alberta’s Provincial Operations Centre has been elevated from a level 3 to a level 4, the highest level.
  • AHS has an Emergency Coordination Centre established, and continues to work efficiently and collaboratively with Alberta Health and care providers across Alberta.
  • We also continue to follow guidance from Health Canada and the World Health Organization.
  • A comprehensive range of prevention and control measures are in place in Alberta, and we will continue to maintain these measures to reduce risk of spread of illness in Alberta.
  • Effective March 25, the province has instituted new enforcement measures for those not respecting public health restrictions. Find more information on Alberta.ca

AHS and Alberta Health will provide updates as new information becomes available.

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