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Drugstores ramp up COVID-19 testing as part of health-care push amid pandemic – Parksville Qualicum Beach News

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Bolstered by early successes, drugstores are accelerating their push into traditional health care amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Loblaw Companies Ltd., which began offering COVID-19 testing for patients at a handful of its Alberta pharmacy locations in June, plans to expand the program to all 234 of its pharmacies in the province by Sept. 1.

The company says it has reached out to all 10 provinces to discuss in-store testing outside Alberta, with Ontario Premier Doug Ford this week acknowledging the possibility.

The swab tests are only for those with no symptoms or any known contact with coronavirus patients and may be useful for teachers returning to school or Canadians who take care of an older family member, said Theresa Firestone, head of health and wellness at Shoppers Drug Mart. Loblaw-owned pharmacy locations include Shoppers stores as well as Independent Foods and No Frills.

“It’s very convenient. We’re in every community. The other plus is they don’t have to line up with people who may have symptoms. We’ve shared that with Ontario and with other provinces, so at this point we’re looking forward to what they may decide,” Firestone said.

London Drugs also conducts COVID-19 tests in Alberta. It began offering the service at six locations during the past two weeks and plans to roll it out at nine more by October. Like Shoppers, it bills Alberta Health Services for testing costs.

The service builds on other responses to the pandemic such as online pharmacist consultations and a pilot program where patients consult virtually with doctors in a private room in the store.

London Drugs, whose 82 stores are located across all four Western provinces, is among the pharmacy retailers beefing up their role in a health-care system grappling with an aging population.

“With the extended hours of operation, you can basically go in when our stores are open and be able to find a pharmacist to ask a question. So what we’re able to do at that point is basically help triage the system,” said Chris Chiew, head of pharmacy at the Richmond, B.C.-based retailer.

READ MORE: B.C. reports 62 cases of COVID-19, no new deaths

London Drugs has also hired diabetes educators to test blood sugar and cholesterol levels and assist patients with weight management and diet.

Shoppers has stepped even further into the realm of physicians, opening one of three planned medical clinics with doctors who cater to a roster of patients and walk-in services.

“There are a number of Canadians who don’t have access to a family physician. And we thought there was an opportunity for us to really play a role here in terms of access,” Firestone said.

Drugstores can also handle the bureaucratic side of health care, freeing up doctors to spend more time with patients, she said.

“Looking for PPE (personal protective equipment), sorting out their waiting rooms so that people are socially distanced, managing virtual care…we’re able to take that burden on for them,” Firestone said.

Community access and convenience are a critical advantage drugstores can cultivate as thinning profit margins prompt them to look beyond over-the-counter sales for income.

“Drugstores have faced tighter margins for generic drugs in recent years and have been looking for alternative sources of revenue,” said University of Calgary economics professor Aidan Hollis.

Some provinces now allow pharmacists to vaccinate patients — flu shots, for example — and write prescriptions for certain medication, such as birth control, as well as extend prescription refills for chronic medications.

“In addition, pharmacies find it attractive to draw patients in for health care even if they don’t earn profits on supplying health care: once the patients are there they may purchase other goods,” Hollis said.

Drugstore chains under the umbrella of McKesson Canada, including Rexall, Guardian and I.D.A., have also started to offer the tests and have conducted more than 6,000 to date.

Metro Inc. declined to comment on any attempts to provide COVID-19 testing. The bulk of the company’s Jean Coutu drugstores are located in Quebec, which unlike some provinces does not allow pharmacists to conduct testing via nose and mouth swabs.

B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba have not expressed particular interest in asymptomatic testing in pharmacies, according to London Drugs, which has reached out to all three provinces.

“They have the capacity right now to be able to do the number of tests that they want to do,” Chiew said.

Ontario conducted 24,353 tests last week and can process up to 33,000 weekly through its provincial lab network, the health ministry said.

“We are looking at ways of enhancing access to testing. Having pharmacies function as testing centres is currently under consideration,” spokeswoman Miriam Mohamadi said in an email.

“How to integrate pharmacies into the COVID-19 diagnostic network, specifically how they would function and for whom they would be appropriate, is being explored.”

READ MORE: B.C. study finds 25% of people think health-care workers shouldn’t be out in public

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press


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COVID-19: Gov. says parties, weddings, gatherings putting people at risk – Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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The province has only issued such fines four times since a state of emergency was declared in March. Two were for people who failed to self-isolate while they had COVID-19. A third was for the host of a large gathering in Saskatoon attended by more than 40 people, which has since been linked to more than 21 cases. A fourth was for a business that was charged $14,000 for operating despite restrictions ordered by the province.

Premier Scott Moe has recently warned that tougher fines may result for people who either blatantly put others at risk or host gatherings that flout public health orders. The maximum allowed at an indoor gathering is 30 people, and only if there is room for each of them to be six feet apart.

The province reported five cases of COVID-19 and eight recoveries on Thursday. Two of the new cases are in the Saskatoon area and one each are in the central west, Regina and south central regions.

The province also reported that 24 schoolchildren tested positive for COVID-19 between Sept. 14 and 20, the first full week of in-person instruction since classes were moved online near the end of the last school year.

The province said 4,106 children and youth were tested last week, mostly in Saskatoon (1,598) and Regina (825).

Thirteen of the kids who tested positive were in Saskatoon, five were in Regina and three each live in the central and south zones of the province.

There are currently 130 known cases that are considered active in Saskatchewan, eight of whom are receiving in-patient hospital care.

Since March, 1,835 cases have been reported in the province.

On Wednesday the province tested 1,578 people for the virus.

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Fort McMurray reports six recoveries, nine new cases; FMCSD reports more cases at schools – Fort McMurray Today

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Elsie Yanik Catholic School in Parsons Creek in Fort McMurray, Alta. on May 16, 2018. Laura Beamish/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Alberta Health Services (AHS) has announced a COVID-19 outbreak at Sister Mary Phillips, making it the third school in Fort McMurray to have an outbreak.

The outbreak was announced Wednesday after two people tested positive for COVID-19.

On Thursday, FMCSD announced a third person had tested positive for COVID-19 at Holy Trinity High School, where an outbreak on Sept. 20.

On the same day, a second case was recorded at Elsie Yanik Catholic School, while St. Martha School identified its first case.

Contact tracing is still being conducted, but in all cases health officials say there is no evidence the cases come from in-school transmission.

AHS has allowed the schools to remain open.

In her Thursday update, Dr. Deena Hinshaw assured Albertans that schools remain safe for students.

Since schools started earlier this month, Hinsahw said Alberta has seen a week-over-week decrease in cases per week in school-aged children.

“I remind everyone that although two confirmed cases in a school may qualify as an outbreak, it is not a sign that a school is unsafe,” she said.

To date, there are 32 outbreaks in schools across the province and 163 active cases related to schools.

Hinshaw also addressed Wednesday’s report on opioid deaths in Alberta, which found opioids killed more Albertans between April and June than COVID-19 has since March.

Health officials blamed the social and economic fallout of lockdowns for the surge in deaths.

“The rise in deaths from opioid poisoning is reminder that the ripple effects of COVID-19 are large and that we need to continue seeking a balance in our response,” said Hinshaw.

“We must embrace two needs at once. The need in minimize the impact of COVID-19 and to minimize the impact that these restrictions have on the rest of our health.”

Provincial COVID-19 updates for September 24:

  • A total of 17,190 people have been infected with the virus. The earliest known COVID-19 case in Alberta was detected in a blood sample collected on Feb. 24. The first case was announced on March 5.
  • Of those cases, 15,467 people have recovered, or roughly 89.9 per cent of all cases.
  • There were 158 new cases reported across Alberta in the last 24 hours.
  • There are 1,462 active cases in Alberta.
  • There are 58 cases hospitalized, with 14 people fighting the virus in intensive care units.
  • There has been one new death related to COVID-19, bringing Alberta’s total to 261.
  • 8,371 tests for COVID-19 were completed in the last 24 hours.
  • To date, 1,255,039 tests for COVID-19 have been carried out on 958,534 people.

COVID-19 in Fort McMurray:

  • There were six new recoveries in Fort McMurray in the past 24 hours, bringing the total recoveries to 194 since the first case was reported in the city on March 19.
  • There were nine new active cases in Fort McMurray in the past 24 hours, bringing the known total to 48.
  • There has been one death related to COVID-19 in Fort McMurray reported since Sept. 8.

COVID-19 in rural areas:

  • No new COVID-19 cases were recorded in Wood Buffalo’s rural areas in the past 24 hours, keeping the total active cases at four.
  • There were no new recoveries in Wood Buffalo’s rural areas in the past 24 hours, keeping the total at 61 recoveries.
  • AHS has not confirmed which rural communities had active COVID-19 cases, only community leaders have.
  • Fort McKay’s First Nation and Métis leaders have made it mandatory to wear masks in the community.
  • There have been no deaths related to COVID-19 in the RMWB’s rural areas.

Local COVID-19 outbreaks:

  • Information on school outbreaks can be found online from Alberta Health Services. No school in Wood Buffalo has been ordered to close.
  • Information on workplace outbreaks can be found online from Alberta Health Services.
  • An outbreak at Canadian Natural’s Albian site was declared after five workers tested positive for the virus on Aug. 13.
  • A precautionary outbreak was declared at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre’s Medical unit when a patient tested positive on Aug. 21.
  • An outbreak at the Syncrude sites north of Fort McMurray was declared on Sept. 3 when 11 workers tested positive for the virus. As of Sept. 14, 15 workers have COVID-19 while 13 have recovered.
  • An outbreak at Suncor’s base plant was declared on Sept. 4 after five workers tested positive for the virus.
  • An outbreak at Earls Kitchen and Bar on Morrison Street was declared on Sept. 14. As of Sept. 23, all staff have recovered. The restaurant has been allowed to remain open.
  • An outbreak at Holy Trinity High School and St. Gabriel’s School was declared on Sept. 20. At both schools, at least two people tested positive for the virus.
  • An outbreak was declared at Sister Mary Phillips School on Sept. 23. There have been two positive cases for COVID-19 reported in relation to the school.
  • St. Martha School reported its first COVID-19 case on Sept. 24. 
  • Two positive cases at Elsie Yanik Catholic School were reported on Sept. 24. 
  • An outbreak is declared when five people at a public site, such as a workplace, test positive for COVID-19. At continuing care centres, the number is two. However, AHS chose to declare a precautionary outbreak when one person tested positive for the virus at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre.
  • An outbreak is over when no new COVID-19 cases have been reported after 30 days.

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What you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Thursday, Sept. 24 – CBC.ca

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The latest:

  • A COVID-19 outbreak that has hit three units within Foothills hospital in Calgary has claimed three lives as of Wednesday, with 17 other patients and nine staff testing positive. A total of 114 staff are in isolation.
  • An outbreak has also been declared in one unit at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton. According to Alberta Health Services, the outbreak involves three health-care workers. At-risk patients in the unit have been tested and no positive COVID-19 cases have been identified among patients. AHS did not identify which health unit was affected.
  • Two more people in Alberta have died from COVID-19, and 143 new cases were reported Wednesday, bringing the province’s total active cases to 1,520, down by 45 from the previous day’s total of 1,565.
  • The most recent deaths were a woman in her 80s in the Calgary zone and a woman in her 70s whose death was linked to an outbreak at Heimstaed Lodge in La Crete, 670 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.
  • There have been 260 deaths from the disease in Alberta since the pandemic began in early March.
  • As of Wednesday, there were 27 schools with outbreaks, out of more than 2,400 in the province: 10 schools in the Calgary zone, 11 in the Edmonton zone, one in Lethbridge, one in St. Albert, one in Okotoks and three in northern Alberta.
  • Austin O’Brien in Edmonton became the fourth school in the province on the AHS watch list, meaning schools with outbreaks of five or more cases, joining Vimy Ridge and Highlands School in Edmonton and St. Wilfrid in Calgary.
  • There are now three schools in the province where it’s believed in-school transmission occurred.
  • Alberta’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, is scheduled to give an update at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday and CBC Alberta will carry it live on the website and on Facebook.

What you need to know today in Alberta:

Here’s the regional breakdown of active cases reported on Wednesday:

  • Calgary zone: 481, down 4 from Tuesday.
  • Edmonton zone: 821, up 1.
  • North zone: 155, down 33.
  • Central zone: 20, down 4.
  • South zone: 38, down 3.
  • Unknown: 5, down 2.

Premier Jason Kenney gave a news conference Thursday with the Alberta government’s response to Wednesday’s  throne speech, saying he sees grounds for more constitutional challenges should the federal Liberal government follow through with its promises.

He says there was nothing in the Trudeau government’s plan for the ailing oil and gas sector, an industry that has suffered thousands of job losses amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the energy industry slump.

He also told reporters federal government plans jeopardize global investments in Alberta’s forestry and fertilizer sectors — moves the premier believes are an infringement on Alberta’s right to develop its own natural resources.

The University of Calgary announced on Thursday that classes will continue to be delivered with a blend of face-to-face and online formats for the winter semester.

Departments will structure face-to-face course components with a 30-student maximum cap as a guideline, with some possible exceptions. The winter term will see a reopening of University of Calgary campuses from 20 per cent to 30 per cent in-person learning, the school said.

A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared on three units at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary. Three patients have died, and 17 other patients and nine staff members have tested positive, according to Alberta Health Services. AHS said all at-risk patients are being offered testing, and contact tracing for anyone who may have been in contact with infected individuals is ongoing. 

There are 1,520 active COVID-19 cases in Alberta. Of the 59 people in hospital, 13 are in intensive care.

(CBC)

As of Wednesday, there were 27 schools with outbreaks: 10 schools in the Calgary zone, 11 in the Edmonton zone, one in Lethbridge, one in St. Albert, one in Okotoks and three in northern Alberta.

Four schools in Alberta, Vimy Ridge, Highlands and Austin O’Brien in Edmonton, and St. Wilfrid Elementary in Calgary, are under watch status, which means they have outbreaks of five or more cases.

COVID survivor support websites have popped up across the globe with individuals expressing concerns about the lingering impact of the virus. Many complain of persistent cough, breathing problems, fatigue and chest and joint pain.

A snapshot of the active cases by neighbourhood in Calgary as of Sept. 23. (CBC)

Organizers of Edmonton’s Camp Pekiwewin are calling for more robust COVID-19 support at the Rossdale encampment as health officials confirm the first reported cases in Edmonton’s homeless community. 

With COVID-19 cases spiking in the city and Alberta Health Services confirming an outbreak linked to Edmonton’s largest shelter on Wednesday, Pekiwewin organizers want the city and province to take action to prevent the virus from sweeping through the camp. 

Six people linked to the Hope Mission’s emergency shelter have tested positive for COVID-19, Alberta Health Services said Wednesday. 

AHS spokesperson Sabrina Atwal said they began investigating after one person in the homeless population tested positive. Atwal confirmed that all six cases are clients — the first reported among Edmonton’s homeless community.

Health workers continue to do contact tracing and swab tests on those who may have been exposed.

Find out which neighbourhoods or communities have the most cases, how hard people of different ages have been hit, the ages of people in hospital, how Alberta compares to other provinces and more in: Here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Alberta — and what they mean

What you need to know today in Canada:

As of 5 a.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had 147,753 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 127,788 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,285.

The fate of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority Liberal government hangs in the balance as Parliament resumes all normal operations today for the first time in six months.

Opposition parties will give their official responses to Wednesday’s speech from the throne, but they’ve already signalled that Trudeau can’t count on support from any of them to survive the eventual confidence vote and avoid plunging the country into an election in the midst of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ontario wants to avoid imposing lockdown-style measures to combat a second wave of COVID-19 but is prepared to take “targeted action” such as closing certain higher-risk businesses, CBC News has learned. 

CBC News obtained a copy of Ontario’s fall pandemic preparedness plan, still in draft form even as Premier Doug Ford’s government is in the midst of announcing some of its elements.

The 21-page draft, provided by a government source this week, acknowledges the recent upsurge in new COVID-19 cases, and lays out three possible scenarios of what the second wave could look like: small, moderate or large.

CBC News has dug deep into the data collected by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to examine how COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, affects the young, the elderly, men and women in order to better understand what’s most likely to land you in hospital — or worse.

Among the findings:

  • In the early days, people over 80 years old made up the largest group getting sick as long-term care homes were hit hard, but CBC’s analysis reveals that since mid-August, infections among young people (under 30) now outnumber the elderly. 
  • Close to 10 per cent of people who tested positive for coronavirus ended up in hospital, according to the cases tracked by PHAC, with two per cent landing in ICU — especially in certain age groups.
  • Six per cent of cases have been fatal, with huge differences in terms of ages and, to a lesser extent, gender.

Self-assessment and supports:

Alberta Health Services has an online self-assessment tool that you can use to determine if you have symptoms of COVID-19, but testing is open to anyone, even without symptoms. 

The province says Albertans who have returned to Canada from other countries must self-isolate. Unless your situation is critical and requires a call to 911, Albertans are advised to call Health Link at 811 before visiting a physician, hospital or other health-care facility.

If you have symptoms, even mild, you are to self-isolate for at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms, until the symptoms have disappeared. 

You can find Alberta Health Services’ latest coronavirus updates here.

The province also operates a confidential mental health support line at 1-877-303-2642 and addiction help line at 1-866-332-2322, both available 24 hours a day. 

Online resources are available for advice on handling stressful situations and ways to talk with children.

There is a 24-hour family violence information line at 310-1818 to get anonymous help in more than 170 languages, and Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence is available at 1-866-403-8000, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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