We have all been bombarded with information with COVID testing and health mandates. It is hard to navigate through all the government and client’s requirements with testing. So let’s go through some of the steps that you will need to take in order to apply for rapid testing through the Alberta Government.
The Two types of COVID Tests and What’s the Difference Between Them.
Rapid Antigen Screening Tests
A rapid antigen screening test can be administered for individuals with or without COVID-19 symptoms. (Generally, if you have symptoms, you should seek the PCR testing by contacting 811 or booking online with Alberta Health Services.)
This test involves collecting nose and throat secretions via nasopharyngeal swab and then examining them for protein fragments specific to the COVID-19 virus. While these tests provide quick results—within 15 minutes—they are generally considered to be less accurate than PCR tests.
If you are feeling under the weather and received a negative rapid test, you may want to receive the PCR test for further confirmation. However, when administered while someone is at the peak of their infection, rapid antigen tests generally provide accurate results as this is when virus levels in the body are the highest.
PCR tests are considered the gold standard when it comes to COVID-19 testing. In fact, if you have ever been asked to show proof of a COVID-19 test, you were required to provide results from a PCR test. These tests provide more accurate results than rapid tests, and that’s because they use a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to identify the viral genetic material of COVID-19. This genetic material can be detected while a person is actively infected and after the acute illness.
The downside to PCR tests, of course, is that results are not as quick as rapid tests. The general timeline is three to seven days, although it can be longer during peak periods.
Development of a Rapid Screening Program
Requirements for the Program
- All screening must be performed on Health Canada-approved testing devices and should be used in compliance with testing guidelines issued by the CMOH.
- A screening program does not replace public health measures such as physical distancing, masking, hand hygiene, and isolating when symptomatic or a close contact of a confirmed positive.
- A positive result on a rapid screen is not diagnostic for COVID-19. An individual who screens positive requires verification through the public health testing system with a test administered by Alberta Health Services.
- An individual who screens positive on the rapid screen is presumed to be positive for COVID-19 until a PCR test is performed and results are received. They are therefore required to follow mandatory public health measures, including immediately isolating for 10 days or until they receive a negative result on a subsequent PCR test.
- COVID-19 antigen tests with a negative result cannot be used to rule out COVID-19 infection. Rapid tests in asymptomatic individuals are not as accurate as PCR tests and a negative result does not guarantee an individual is not infected with COVID-19 and will not spread it to others.
- All documentation will be kept confidential.
- Organizations should develop a plan for the following key aspects of a screening program:
- A screening process that includes policies and procedures for conducting screening on-site and specifies screening frequency. Screening processes must be in alignment with public health guidance.
- Management of a presumptive positive screen from a rapid test.
- A systematic procedure in place to provide follow up on test results and communication of screening results back to individuals.
- Privacy and security considerations to protect confidentiality of screening results.
The program will have these documents included:
- Rapid Asymptomatic COVID-19 Screening Results which will detail the results of the screening test and the follow up requirements.
- Rapid Screening Consent Form which the worker must read and sign to verify employees have agreed to take the rapid screening testing.
- Pre-Screening Test Questionnaire which will verify that eligible for the screening tests
- COVID-19 Return to Work Questionnaire, and this will be filled out upon returning after a positive case.
Apply for the Rapid Testing Program
You will then need to fill out the Alberta Rapid Screening Tests Request – Applicant Information form which can be found here. You will email the application and theprogram you have developed for review. Then you find out if you have been approved.
Once approved , you will need to send a weekly report to your Alberta government. (They will give you a form to complete and a contact to send to).
Testing do not replace public health measures such as physical distancing, masking, hand hygiene, staying home and accessing testing when sick, and the mandatory isolation of COVID-19 cases and quarantine of their close contacts. Those who have a negative result may still be infected with COVID-19 and be able to spread it to others.
For more information about the program please head to the Alberta Govenment website.