Information For Constituents Regarding Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

INFORMATION FOR CONSTITUENTS REGARDING NOVEL CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)

March 15th 2020

As your MP, I wanted to reach out to you regarding the recent developments with respect to COVID-19.  I know that these events have caused fear and anxiety for many of us.  This is a matter where we are all looking to, and taking direction from, the many talented healthcare experts that work both provincially and federally.  As a former Minister of Health, I have enormous confidence in our experts and in our system to handle this pandemic and to act in the best interests of all our heath. 

One thing that politicians can do is reach a large number of their constituents quickly.  That is why I have put together this document, which contains factual information from either Alberta Health Services or from Health Canada which is accurate as of March 15th.  I hope you find this information helpful.

AHS Has an Online COVID-19 Screening Tool

If you are concerned that you may have COVID-19, one first step you should consider is using AHS’s online self-assessment tool to help you decide if you need to call Health Link at 811.  The tool is available at www.ahs.ca/covid19.  It is easy and quick and will tell you if you need to call Health Link or not. 

AHS says: “If you have symptoms such as fever, cough and difficulty breathing and have travelled outside Canada or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, stay home and call Health Link 811. If you are not seriously ill, do not go to a physician’s office, a health care facility or a lab without consulting with Health Link 811 first. Call 911 if you are seriously ill and need immediate medical attention and inform them that you may have COVID-19.”

Health Link is experiencing, as you might expect, very high call volumes, particularly during the day.  Try calling back during off peak hours if you are unable to get through. 

What is COVID-19? 

AHS says “Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause respiratory illness in people, ranging from mild common colds to severe illnesses. Others cause illness in animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people, and more rarely, these can then spread from person to person through close contact. Novel coronaviruses are new strains of the virus that have not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 is believed to be spread mainly by coughing, sneezing or direct contact with someone who is sick with COVID-19 or with surfaces they have recently touched.”

What is the Current Risk?

AHS says “The risk of exposure in Alberta is still assessed as low at this time, however we anticipate this risk may increase in the coming weeks.  A higher risk does currently apply to people who develop a fever and/or cough or shortness of breath AND meet any of the criteria below.  In the 14 days before illness onset, they:

  • Travelled to anywhere outside of Canada or
  • Had close contact* with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 or
  • Had close contact* with a person with acute respiratory illness who has travelled anywhere outside of Canada within 14 days prior to illness onset or
  • Had laboratory exposure to biological material (e.g. primary clinical specimens, virus culture isolates) known to contain COVID-19 virus.

Anyone meeting these criteria should avoid contact with others and call Health Link 811 for advice.”

What is the Government of Canada Doing?

The Government of Canada recommends that you avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice.

For incoming travellers from international destinations, the Government of Canada will be restricting flights to a few Canadian airports so that passengers can be effectively screened and quarantined if necessary. 

Measures already in place seek to:

  • identify any travellers returning to Canada who may be ill
  • raise awareness among travellers about what they should do if they become sick

Transport Canada says “Travellers going through these airports will see additional signage in French and English, asking them to alert a border services officer should they have any flu-like symptoms.  Travellers will need to respond to a screening question that has been added to electronic kiosks for all international travellers at these airports. This question is available in 15 different languages.”

Travellers from Hubei, China, Iran or Italy who do not show signs or symptoms of illness upon entry into Canada will be required to provide contact information and be advised to self-quarantine for 14 days. 

In addition, the government has activated the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Public Health Response Plan for Biological Events which coordinates between all provincial and federal public health agencies to ensure a unified, Canada-wide, response.  Lastly, Health Canada has agreed to quickly approve clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies who believe they may have vaccines, drugs, or other medical devices that may help combat COVID-19. 

Ron Liepert

Sources:

https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/topics/Page16997.aspx

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/canadas-reponse.html