Advice for People Tested for COVID-19

COVID-19

Last Updated: June 10, 2021

While Waiting for Results

How to Get Your COVID-19 Test Results|Legal Requirements for Adults or 18+ Not in High School| Legal Requirements for Under 18 or 18+ Attending High School|You Do Not Have To Self-Isolate If...|Positive Swab Test Result| Return to Work or School|Negative Swab Test Result|Indeterminate or Invalid Result| Re-testing Guidance| Types of COVID-19 Tests| Rapid Point-of-Care COVID-19 Testing| Blood Test for COVID-19 (serology test)

While you are awaiting your test results:

  • If you have symptoms, you must isolate until you have had confirmation of a negative test and your symptoms are no longer present.
  • If you have no symptoms AND 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, you do not need to quarantine.

These are the next steps for after you have had a COVID-19 test in Alberta. If you require a test complete the online assessment tool or call 811 to book your test.

How to Get Your COVID-19 Test Results

MyHealth Records

Albertans 14 years of age and older can access their COVID-19 lab test results in MyHealth Records. This is a secure Government of Alberta service that helps keep track of your health information. Register for a MyAlberta Digital ID  to access MyHealth Records.

Access your Children’s Test Results on MyHealth Records - As of October 1, 2020

Parents can access their children’s COVID-19 test results in addition to their own results by signing up for your MyHealth Records account, at alberta.ca/myhealthrecords.

  1. Parents: you will need to provide your child’s personal health number and test date to access your child’s COVID-19 test results (within the last 30 days).
  2. Children’s test results will also be accessible as a printable PDF.

This feature allows parents and guardians to securely receive their child’s COVID-19 test results and print off the results for those who need them.


Autodialer & SMS

Albertans have the option to receive positive and negative COVID-19 test results over the phone through an autodialer system or by SMS text message.

You will be provided with the opportunity to consent to receive automated test results at the time of booking your COVID-19 test. If you do not consent to receive test results through autodialer or SMS, someone from AHS will call you directly to make sure you get your test results.

Parents/guardians can 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 means that multiple calls or texts may be delivered to a single number provided for a family unit.

All positive results will be followed up through a phone call from AHS Public Health.


Timing

Automated phone calls are delivered between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m., seven days a week. SMS results are delivered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This means you may receive your test result by SMS anytime within a 24 hour period, day or night.

Call Attempts

The autodialer will make up to three attempts to deliver the test result by phone call. A voice message will be left on the third 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.

See SMS Text & Autodialer FAQ for more information.

Legal Requirements for Adults or 18+ NOT in High School:

You must isolate or quarantine if:

  • you test positive for COVID-19.
  • you have a cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose, sore throat, or loss of sense of taste or smell that is not related to a pre-existing illness or health condition.
  • you have travelled outside Canada within the last 14 days.
  • you have been in contact in the last 14 days with someone known to have COVID-19, even if you are tested for COVID-19 and have negative results
  • see isolation and quarantine guidelines.

Albertans who have symptoms of COVID-19 need to review mandatory isolation requirements, and complete a self-assessment to book an appointment for COVID-19 testing.

Legal Requirements for Under 18 or 18+ Attending High School:

Symptoms of runny nose and sore throat have been removed from the mandatory isolation checklist for Albertans under 18, whether they are attending classes, day care or recreational activities as well as individuals 18 years and over attending high school.

 

  • For a child with no known exposures to COVID-19 or international travel in the past 14 days:
    • If the child has any of the following symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath or loss of sense of smell or taste:
      • The child is to isolate for 10 days from onset of symptoms.
      • Testing is recommended.
    • If the child has a negative test result and they are feeling better, they can resume normal activities, even if the 10 days is not completed.
  • If the child has ONE of: chills; sore throat or painful swallowing; runny nose or congestion; feeling unwell or fatigue; nausea, vomiting, diarrhea; unexplained loss of appetite; muscle or joint aches; headache; conjunctivitis:
    • The child should stay home and monitor for 24 hours.
    • If their symptom is improving after 24 hours, they can return to school/activities when they feel well enough to go. Testing is not necessary.
    • If the symptom worsens after 24 hours (or if additional symptoms emerge), testing is recommended but not required. The child can return to activities and school when:
      • their symptoms have resolved AND it’s been at least 24 hours since their symptoms started.
  • If the child has any TWO of: chills; sore throat or painful swallowing; runny nose or congestion; feeling unwell or fatigue; nausea, vomiting, diarrhea; unexplained loss of appetite; muscle or joint aches; headache; conjunctivitis:
    • The child should stay home.
    • Testing is recommended but not required.
      • The child can attend school/daycare and other public places when their symptoms have resolved AND it’s been 24 hours or more since their symptoms started.
  • The child with any symptoms should not visit a congregate living or acute care facility for 10 days from when symptom(s) started or until they go away (whichever is longer), unless they receive a negative COVID-19 test result and are feeling better.

You Do Not Have To 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

Follow these steps immediately to help protect yourself and others around you.

Step 1: Isolate Immediately

If you have symptoms and your test result for COVID-19 is positive, you are legally required to isolate for 10 days from when your symptoms started, regardless of whether or not you have been immunized for COVID-19.

If you have not had any symptoms, but your test is positive, you are legally required to isolate for 10 days from the date you were tested; this date will change if you develop symptoms. This applies regardless of whether or not you have been immunized for COVID-19.

See Isolation & Quarantine for more information on isolation supports.

Step 2: Identify Close Contacts

Complete the COVID-19 Close Contacts Identification Guide and then enter all information into the COVID-19 Close Contacts Tool to identify your close contacts.

Once submitted, contact tracers will review all close contacts and a text message notification will be delivered to all close contacts whose mobile numbers are entered into the tool. Learn more about the contact tracing process. Start identifying your close contacts now.

Alternatively, if you are using the ABTraceTogether app, AHS contact tracers will ask you to volunteer your ABTraceTogether logs so other users that you've had close contact with can be notified. You can also upload your contact tracing data using the self-service feature on MyHealth Records.

COVID-19 Close Contacts Tool

Step 3: Get Informed

Learn more about Close Contacts of a COVID-19 Case.

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be contacted by phone by a member of AHS’ Public Health team for follow-up and support.

Return to Work or School

A negative COVID-19 test and/or a medical note is not required to return to school, work or activities once your isolation period is complete. This guidance is on the Alberta Health website.

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 quarantine. Continue to follow all public health measures and steps to prevent the spread.
  • 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 quarantine for the full 14 days from your last contact with the person who is positive or from your return to Canada.
  • Immunized close contacts may have different quarantine requirements. See Quarantine for Immunized Close Contacts for more information.
  • 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.
  • Continue to follow all public health measures, including good hand hygiene, physical distancing and monitor yourself for symptoms.
  • If you have developed new symptoms since your test, or if you develop new symptoms in the future, 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.

Indeterminate or Invalid Result

If you receive an indeterminate or invalid result, we are sorry, but we are unable to accurately determine your test results from the sample provided. You need to get tested again. You must follow any isolation or quarantine directions you were given. To schedule a re-test, visit ahs.ca/testing.

Re-testing Guidance

If you test positive you are required to isolate. You should not be tested again during your isolation period. Testing negative does not mean you can end isolation early.

Based on current evidence, re-testing within 90 days of a positive test result is not recommended as long as you do not have symptoms. Some people continue to test positive for up to 90 days after their infection. This does not mean you are still infectious.

If you have new COVID-19 symptoms within 90 days of completing your required isolation period, please speak with your healthcare provider to discuss the need for re-testing.

If you have any questions, please speak with your healthcare provider or call Health Link at 811 to speak with a registered nurse.

Types of COVID-19 Tests

There are different kinds of tests for COVID-19:

Viral test – these tests are done by collecting a swab, from your nose or throat, to look for the virus in different ways. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or nucleic acid test looks for the virus’ genetic material. An antigen test looks for proteins on the virus.
Antibody test (also called a serology test)– this is a blood test to look for antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19

Rapid COVID-19 Point-of-Care Testing

COVID-19 Assessment Centres and other settings

Rapid Point of Care Testing (POCT) is an important pillar of Alberta’s COVID-19 testing program, providing Albertans with faster, more convenient testing for the disease. POCT for COVID-19 is being used at select sites throughout the province, including COVID-19 assessment centres.

The tests are used for patients who are within the first seven days of exhibiting symptoms, enabling quick identification positive cases. Testing may also be done in other groups, such as those who are close contacts of someone with COVID-19, or those in outbreak settings. The use of POCT undergoes regular review to determine where testing can provide greatest value for public health authorities to manage COVID-19.

If you are eligible and consent to receive a rapid POCT COVID-19 test at an assessment centre, two swabs will be collected at the time of your appointment, because some results will require additional testing by the lab.

The result notification process for POCT at assessment centres will depend on the consent you provided at the time of booking (e.g. SMS text or phone call):

  • Positive test: You will receive your result by text message or phone call within 1 to 3 hours directing you to isolate (if you are not already legally required to do so).
  • Negative test: Your swab requires further lab confirmation, as the test is insufficient to rule out COVID-19. You will receive a text message or call within 5 to 6 hours directing you to continue to isolate until you receive a follow-up text message or call with the confirmed lab test result, typically within 48 hours.

Workplaces and some community settings

Rapid POCT is also used to screen for potential COVID-19 infection in asymptomatic individuals. This is being done in several workplace and school settings across the province. Screening using rapid tests identifies some, but not all, pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic cases. This type of identification can limit spread of the virus.

With these tests, a positive screening result requires immediate isolation and a second test by PCR is required to confirm the result.

If your POCT workplace or community asymptomatic screen result is negative, it is important to understand this this is a point-in-time result. It does not guarantee that you are not infected with COVID-19 or will not spread it to others. Continue to follow all public health guidance to help prevent the spread.

Blood Test for COVID-19 (serology test)

As of July 2, 2020, serology testing for COVID-19 is 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.