Last updated September 17, 2020
Swab Testing Results You Are Legally Required To Self-Isolate If... You Do Not Have To Self-Isolate If... Positive Swab Test Result Negative Swab Test Result How to Find Out Your COVID-19 Test Results Travel Related Testing & Documentation Requests Blood Test for COVID-19 (serology test) Positive Blood Test Result Negative Blood Test Result
There are now two different kinds of tests for COVID-19. One is done by collecting a swab to look for virus, and the other is a blood test to look for antibodies to the virus.
The first test is the one we have been using for several months to determine if you are currently infected with the COVID-19 virus. This is done by a swab test in your nose or throat.
You are eligible for this testing if:
- You have symptoms of COVID-19
- You are close contacts of a confirmed case, whether symptomatic or not; or,
- You are linked to a known outbreak, whether symptomatic or not.
You are also eligible for COVID-19 testing if you are:
- A school teacher and/or school staff;
- A healthcare worker;
- Staff and/or a resident at congregate living facilities, including long-term care;
- Are experiencing homelessness; or
- Require asymptomatic testing for the purpose of travel
If you do not have symptoms and do not fall into any of the above groups, you are not recommended for testing in Alberta at this time.
To determine whether you are recommended for testing in Alberta, please complete the online assessment tool or call 811 to book your test.
Swab Testing Results
If you have been tested for COVID-19, it is important that you understand what to do while you await your tests results, and what it means if your COVID-19 test is positive or negative.
You Are Legally Required To Self-Isolate If:
- you test positive for COVID-19.
- you have a cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose, or sore throat that is not related to a pre-existing illness or health condition.
- you have been in contact in the last 14 days with someone known to have COVID-19.
- you have travelled outside Canada within the last 14 days.
- see self-isolation guidelines.
You Do Not Have To Self-Isolate If:
- you have not been exposed to someone known to have COVID-19 and you have not travelled outside of Canada within the last 14 days and.:
- you are waiting for results and you did not have symptoms when you were tested and do not have any now
- you have symptoms of illness that are related to a pre-existing illness or health condition, and are not new.
- you have tested negative for COVID-19 and have no symptoms of illness
- you have tested negative for COVID-19 and have a cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose, or sore throat that is related to a pre-existing illness or health condition. We do always suggest you stay home when sick with any illness, until symptoms resolve; however, if your COVID test is negative, this is not legally required.
If You Have a Positive Swab Test Result
All individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will be contacted by a member of the AHS Public Health team for follow-up and case management.
If you have/had symptoms and your test result for COVID-19 is positive, you are legally required to self-isolate for 10 days from when your symptoms started and until symptoms are gone (whichever is longer).
If you have not had any symptoms, but your test is positive, you are legally required to self-isolate for 10 days from the date you were tested; this date will change if you develop symptoms during this 10 day period. You will be given instructions by Public Health.
- Self-isolation helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 by lowering the chance the virus could spread to others.
- You must stay at home – don’t leave your home or attend work, school, social events or any other public gatherings.
- Avoid close contact with other people, including household members, and especially seniors and people with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems.
- Wash your hands often and thoroughly, cover your cough and sneezes, avoid sharing household items and clean and disinfect frequently touched and shared surfaces.
- You will be contacted by Public Health for information and instructions.
Health care workers (HCWs)* have additional requirements and may not work in any health care setting until 14 days have passed since symptom onset and symptoms have resolved (whichever is longer)
*HCWs includes individuals who provide service in a clinical care setting, including hospitals, clinics, continuing care facilities, licensed supportive living sites, public health centres, community assessment centres, and any other settings where face-to-face patient care (including fire fighters and EMS) is provided.
If You Have a Negative Swab Test Result
- If you do not have symptoms of illness, AND have not been in contact with a known case of COVID-19 OR have not returned from travel outside of Canada within the last 14 days, you do not need to self-isolate. Continue to follow good respiratory etiquette and good hand hygiene, and practice physical distancing.
- If your test is negative but you have been in contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 or you have returned from travel outside of Canada you must still self-isolate for the full 14 days from your last contact with the person who is positive or from your return to Canada.
- Remember: your test result is for that point in time only. It doesn’t tell you if you have had COVID-19 before, and it doesn’t predict if you will get it in the future. You’ll need to continue to follow all public health measures, such as physical distancing and hand hygiene, even if your test is negative. If you have developed new symptoms since your test, or if you develop new symptoms in the future, please self-isolate and take the COVID-19 self-assessment online again, or call Health Link at 811 for additional advice.
- AHS, Covenant Health and Alberta Precision Labs employees can refer to COVID-19 Return to Work Guide for AHS Healthcare Workers for further instructions.
- It’s always best to stay home when you’re sick until your symptoms go away so you don’t get other people sick.
How to Find Out Your COVID-19 Test Results
- All Albertans being tested for COVID-19 have the option to receive positive and negative COVID-19 test results over the phone through an autodialer system or via SMS text messaging.
- Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will also be contacted by phone by a member of the AHS Public Health team for follow-up and support.
- Individuals who sign up for COVID-19 testing on or after September 10th will be provided with the opportunity at time of booking to consent to receive automated positive and negative test results. If you do not consent to receiving results through the autodialer or SMS text, someone from AHS will call you directly to make sure you get your test results.
- Albertans who opt-in to receive an SMS text message, are advised that they may receive your test result anytime within a 24 hour period, day or night seven days a week. Automated phone calls will be delivered between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m., seven days a week and SMS text results will be delivered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Parents and guardians will also be able to consent to receive automated test results for dependents (aged 17 years and younger). Each individual test result will be delivered by a dedicated call or text. This may mean that multiple calls or texts are delivered to a single number provided for a family unit.
- For rapid results, Albertans 14 years old or older can also access test results efficiently, online, through MyHealth Records, a secure Alberta government service that helps keep track of your health information. You will need to sign up for a MyAlberta Digital ID to use this service.
- The autodialer will make up to three attempts to deliver the test result via a phone call. A voice message that details the test results, positive or negative, will be left on the 3rd and final attempt if the call is still not answered.
- Please note: to get your test results by autodialer you will need to remove any anonymous call-blocking settings from your phone so that the autodialer call comes through. Please also make sure you answer any anonymous calls and read anonymous texts from numbers that you do not recognize.
- Currently, Albertans should allow seven to 10 days from the time you are swabbed for COVID-19, to have access to your results.
- We understand that current traveler testing processes may not align with requests from some airlines, countries or local authorities, for travel out of Alberta. We are working on new processes that will be in place in the coming weeks.
- Frequently Asked Questions
Travel Related Testing & Documentation Requests
Travelers are responsible for understanding any COVID-19 testing and reporting requirements for their travel. They must allow enough time for their testing and to secure printed results. If you are requiring proof of COVID-19 status prior to travel, please plan ahead.
Albertans planning travel should allow at 7-10 days from the time they are swabbed for COVID-19 to having access to printable test results.
We understand that current traveler testing processes may not align with requests from some airlines, countries or local authorities, for travel outside of Alberta. We are working on new processes that will be in place in the coming weeks. The new travel process will significantly shorten turnaround times for testing results for travelers, by early October. In the meantime, we continue to remind all Albertans planning travel to consider testing requirements well ahead of departure date.
Travel-related swabbing and testing is available for asymptomatic patients only. If you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, please call HealthLink / 811.
Blood Test for COVID-19 (serology test)
In Alberta, beginning July 2, 2020, serology for COVID-19 will be available primarily for assessing the number of people in Alberta that have of antibodies to COVID-19 and for research use. It will not be available for the general public.
Serology testing is done to determine whether you have had COVID-19 in the past, and now have antibodies against the virus.
- Serology testing can only be completed if it is requested by your doctor.
- It requires a blood test to determine whether you have developed antibodies against the COVID-19 virus.
- Our immune system produces antibodies, proteins that are critical for fighting and clearing out the infections. It takes about 1 to 3 weeks after infection for your body to make antibodies.
- Antibodies are disease specific; so if COVID-19 antibodies are detected in your blood, we know that you have been infected with COVID-19 at some point in the past.
- In specific situations the serological test may be used to assist with treatment decisions. This would only be done if requested by a physician.
- Serology testing will not be used for diagnosing a current COVID-19 infection.
A positive serology does NOT mean a patient is immune to COVID-19. At this time, there is a lack of evidence on whether having antibodies to COVID-19 means you are protected against reinfection with COVID-19 and if so, how long that protection would last. Ongoing studies will help reveal more information to answer these questions.
If You Have a Positive Blood Test Result
- If you have a positive antibody test result this means you have developed antibodies to a past infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.
- There is a chance that a positive test result means you have antibodies from an infection with a virus from the same family of viruses (called coronaviruses), such as the one that causes the common cold.
- We do not know how much protection the antibodies may provide or how long this protection may last.
- It does not mean you are immune to reinfection with COVID-19.
- You should continue to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 since you could get infected with the virus again. This means to continue to practice physical distancing, good hand hygiene, and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Talk to your health care provider about your test results.
If You Have a Negative Blood Test Result
- If you have a negative antibody test result this means you do not have antibodies to COVID-19 from a past infection.
- Some people may take longer to develop antibodies and some people may not ever develop antibodies.
- Talk to your health care provider about your test results.
- You should continue to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 since you could get infected with the virus. This means to continue to practice physical distancing, good hand hygiene, and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- It is possible to have a negative serology test and a positive PCR test if you are currently infected with COVID-19. In this situation, you must follow the guidance as above for people with a positive PCR result