EDMONTON — The Alberta government is spending $10 million on four studies to track the spread of COVID-19 through blood tests.
The studies aim to detect the presence of antibodies. They will test two groups of children over the next two years, a group of select individuals over the age of 45, and a group of random blood samples collected for other reasons.
Antibody tests can tell if a person has been exposed to COVID-19 in the past. It is different from the testing being done now to detect current cases.
"We know there are people who have been infected and were never tested ... many of them because they never got sick," Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Tuesday.
"We need to know how much immunity people have after they've been infected ... if they can be infected again."
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, said the studies will help researchers calculate what percentage of Albertans have a history of infection and how to improve the health response.
Hinshaw announced an additional 45 cases of COVID-19 Tuesday for a total to date of 7,781. She said 37 people remain in hospital with six in intensive care.
Alberta's death toll remains at 153.
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Hinshaw said Alberta Health has declared an outbreak at Edmonton's Misericordia Hospital. She said it is limited to one unit and there are six patients and two staff who have tested positive.
"Outbreak protocols have already been implemented and any staff or patients who may have been exposed are being tested," Hinshaw said.
A number of restaurants in Edmonton closed over the weekend because of cases among staff and guests. But Hinshaw said those closures were voluntarily and not directed by public health officials.
"We did not require closures and to date there are no known outbreaks at these locations," she said.
"It is an important reminder that the virus is still here."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 23, 2020
The Canadian Press