Banff Council Declines Rapid Testing Pilot for COVID-19, Despite Rising Cases and Free Tests

Covid Cases Chart

Rapid Test & Trace Canada presented comprehensive rapid testing and tracing program supported by AHS

Covid Cases Chart

April 12, 2021 (Calgary, Alberta) – With COVID-19 cases at a record high in the Banff district and Alberta entering its third pandemic lockdown two days ago, the Town of Banff considered a comprehensive proposal for a 90-day municipality-wide rapid testing and tracing program.

Rapid Test & Trace Canada (RTTC), the country’s leading voice for the use of mass rapid antigen tests to stop the spread of COVID-19, developed the proposal with world-renowned public health experts and input from Alberta Health Services (AHS).

RTTC’s plan included tests provided by the province at no cost to the Town and was presented during the April 12 Council meeting. After reviewing the plan and a lengthy question period, the Council voted 4 to 3 against a motion to explore the proposition further.

“I’m shocked and disappointed,” said RTTC co-founder Sandy White after hearing the news. “The Town of Banff had an unprecedented and enviable opportunity to take a leadership position in Canada’s struggle to stop COVID. Unfortunately, the Town has to balance other priorities and apparently didn’t see the value of how our proposal would help protect residents.”

“This was a tremendous opportunity to do something major – globally innovative and with the support from local businesses and AHS providing the tests, we would have been able to do it at a tiny fraction of the actual cost,” said Dr. Richard Lester, CSO with WelTel Health, a project sponsor and RTTC partner.

The primary reasons cited by Council include jurisdictional concerns, resource constraints, and the belief that vaccine distribution will eventually slow the spread. The entire recorded discussion and supporting materials are posted on the Town’s website

“People seem to think that vaccines mean we won’t need to test,” said Adam Singfield, RTTC co-founder. ”But the implications of the variants on vaccines are still unknown. And countries like the UK are showing the world the importance of mass testing, even with high vaccine distribution.”

With free tests available from AHS, local businesses in Banff have begun small-scale workplace rapid testing programs. While governments squabble over jurisdiction, Canada’s private sector is stepping up to keep people safe.

“I think this experience epitomizes the ineptitude at all levels of government in effectively managing the pandemic and keeping Canadians safe,” said White.

“The provincial and federal governments are offering programs that provide free tests for businesses, but this comes with huge costs to the businesses and is only really available to bigger businesses with the means to pay for and administer testing, while the majority of Canadians are ignored.”

Related COVID-19 Stats

  • As of April 11, 2021, the Improvement District NO.9 (Banff) municipality had 750.87 active cases per 100,000 people, one of the highest rates in the province, based on data from the Alberta Health Services.
  • As of April 8, 2021, the Province of Alberta has received more than 2.9M rapid antigen tests from the Government of Canada. As of April 6, 2021, Alberta has deployed 1.5M tests to the final point-of-care setting where they will be administered, based on data from Health Canada.

Watch the video below to view the COVID-19 update during the Banff Town Council meeting of April 12, where the Council learns that Banff has one of the highest cases rates in Canada.

Play Video

Key Points – Proposed Banff Rapid Testing Pilot

  • Voluntary participation open to all Banff residents
  • Screening to be conducted with rapid antigen tests that return results in 15 minutes
  • Test results to be securely communicated using WelTel Health technology
  • The goal is to test residents twice weekly for 90 days
  • Centralized screening centers throughout Banff will aim to test about 10% of the population daily
  • Participation available only to asymptomatic people
  • Participants presenting with symptoms to be directed to public health
  • Positive rapid test results to be directed to public health
  • In-kind services and funding provided by the local business community
  • Rapid antigen tests provided by AHS
  • Rapid Test & Trace Canada to present its proposal to Banff at the Council meeting of April 12, 2021
  • The Town of Banff was being asked to help administer the program

About Rapid Test & Trace Canada

Formed by a coalition of the country’s top academics and public health professionals and citizens representing businesses from multiple industries, RTTC supports the democratization of rapid antigen tests in Canada. RTTC provides specialized advisory services and works with businesses and event organizations across Canada to help purchase rapid tests and implement rapid testing solutions to protect their workplaces from COVID-19.

Learn more about how to get rapid testing at

For more information, please contact:

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