Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced today that the province is changing its COVID-19 quarantine and isolation requirements.
Starting July 29th, Albertans who are close contacts of those who test positive for COVID-19 will not have to isolate. Three weeks later, starting August 16th, those who test positive for COVID-19 will no longer be required to isolate. This change is a result of nearly 75.6 per cent of eligible Albertans have been inoculated with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 64.3 per cent fully immunized.
Though Alberta is expecting a surge in COVID-19 cases, the province says a surge of hospitalizations and other severe outcomes is much less likely due to high vaccination.
The new measures are part of Alberta’s strategy to gradually bring COVID-19 measures in line with other respiratory viruses to ensure health system capacity for the fall and slowly make a shift into “living with COVID”.
Alberta will continue testing for severe cases with provincial monitoring, outbreak management in high-risk settings, and other key measures remaining in place. According to the news release, Alberta Health will be able to adapt as needed if hospitalizations due to COVID-19 spike in the future.
The new changes will be adapted in a two-phase transition and will be used to safely monitor the impact of the initial changes, adapt as needed over the next few weeks, and give more time to vaccinate Albertans.
The following changes will be effective July 29:
- Quarantine for close contacts will shift from mandatory to recommended. Isolation for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms and for confirmed positive cases is still required.
- Unimmunized individuals who know they have been exposed to COVID-19 should monitor for symptoms and seek testing if they become symptomatic.
- Anyone who is not fully immunized should avoid high-risk locations such as continuing care facilities and crowded indoor spaces if they have been in contact with a case in the past 14 days.
- All positive cases will continue to be notified. Contact tracers will no longer notify close contacts of exposure. Individuals are asked to inform their close contacts when informed of their positive result.
- Contact tracers will continue to investigate cases that are in high-risk settings such as acute and continuing care facilities.
- Outbreak management and identification will focus on high-risk locations, including continuing and acute care facilities and high-risk workplaces. Community outbreaks with a surge in cases leading to severe outcomes will also be addressed as needed.
- Asymptomatic testing is no longer recommended. Testing will continue to be available for individuals who are symptomatic.
- Mandatory masking remains in acute and continuing care facilities, publicly accessible transit, taxis and ride-share.
The following changes will take effect on Aug. 16:
- Provincial mandatory masking orders will be lifted. Some masking in acute care or continuing care facilities may still be required.
- Isolation following a positive COVID-19 test result will no longer be required, but strongly recommended.
- Individuals with symptoms of any respiratory infection should still remain at home until symptoms have resolved.
- Staying home when sick remains an important way to care for those around us by not passing on any infection.
- Isolation hotels and quarantine support will no longer be available.
- Testing will be available for Albertans with symptoms when it is needed to help direct patient care decisions.
- This testing will be available through assessment centres until Aug. 31 and, after that, will be in primary care settings including physicians’ offices. For those with severe illness requiring urgent or emergency care, testing will be available in acute care and hospital settings.
- COVID-19 testing will also be offered as needed in high-risk outbreaks such as in continuing care facilities.
- Public health will focus on investigating severe cases that require hospitalization and any deaths due to COVID-19.
- Outbreak management and preventative measures will continue focusing on outbreaks in high-risk settings, such as continuing and acute care facilities.
- Community outbreaks will continue to be addressed as needed.
- Daycares and schools will be supported with measures that would be effective for any respiratory virus if outbreaks are identified.
194 new COVID-19 cases were reported on July 18th, the highest number of cases since June 8th.