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Virus Facts

Read the OMA’s recommendations for Ontario’s ongoing pandemic response.

  • What are general recommendations to protect myself and those around me?

    Take your doctor’s expert advice and do these things to reduce the spread of COVID:

    • Wash your hands often
    • Wear a mask or face covering at all times unless you are at home with housemates or outdoors with guaranteed two metres distance from others
    • Stay away from crowded places
    • Gather only with members of your household. Don’t invite others into your home
    • Download the COVID-19 Alert app and/or keep track of where you go and when
    • Self-isolate if you develop symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, difficulty breathing)
    • Follow all of the public health recommendations in your region

    For information, visit the government’s COVID-19 website.

  • When and how can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

    Health Canada has approved four safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. In Ontario, vaccines are being administered at mass vaccination sites, pharmacies and family doctors’ offices. Visit the government’s website for the latest information on the COVID-19 vaccine.

    Doctors urge patients to take the first vaccine that is offered to them. As the provincial vaccine rollout ramps up, it is essential that everyone continues to practise public health measures such as physical distancing, wearing masks and hand hygiene to slow the spread of COVID-19.

  • What is currently open in Ontario?

    Read Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework to find out what restrictions apply to your region.

  • How should I decide what activities are safe?

    It is important for Ontarians to stay vigilant. Stay home if you feel sick. Do not participate in any activity that doesn’t adhere to public health restrictions or respect gathering limits in your region.

    Observing public health measures is generally more difficult in closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings. For any activity or gathering where it is not possible to follow public health measures, you should consider alternative ways to participate.

    If any activity makes you feel unsafe, you should inquire about safety precautions, propose a safer activity, or decline to participate.

    Read the OMA’s recommendations on how to stay safe during the holiday season.

    Read the OMA’s recommendations on learning to live with COVID-19.

    Listen to the OMA’s podcast series on public health advice for heading back to school.

  • When should I seek treatment?

    If you develop any COVID-19 symptoms (including fever, cough, or difficulty breathing), self-isolate and take a self-assessment to determine if you should be tested for COVID-19.

    If you have COVID-19 symptoms:

    • Complete the Ministry of Health self-assessment. The self-assessment will direct you to Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000), your family physician, nurse practitioner, family practice clinic or your local public health unit. You may be directed to a hospital or a regional assessment centre.

    If you are experiencing worsening symptoms and have not yet tested positive for COVID-19:

    • Go to your local emergency department. Call before you go and let them know you have used the government's self-assessment tool.

    If you are experiencing worsening symptoms and have tested positive for COVID-19:

    • Go to your local emergency department. Call before you go and let them know you have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • How do I know when it’s safe to return to my regular activities?

    If you feel sick you should stay home. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 you should take a self-assessment to determine if you should be tested for COVID-19.

    Knowing when it’s safe to return to your regular activities depends on whether or not you tested positive for COVID-19 and the symptoms you’re currently experiencing. If you are unsure if it’s safe to resume your usual activities, contact your local public health unit.

    You do not require a doctor’s note to return to work, school, child care or other activities. The OMA has developed a self-clearance attestation form in English and French that you can provide.

    What if I tested positive for COVID-19?

    If you had symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19 you are considered recovered after 10 days from when your symptoms started if you have no fever and your symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours. If you still have symptoms or a fever after 10 days do not resume regular activities. Continue to self-isolate and contact your doctor or Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000) for further direction. If your symptoms get worse, visit your local emergency department. Call before you go and let them know you tested positive for COVID-19.

    If you tested positive for COVID-19 but did not have any symptoms, you should isolate for 10 days from your confirmed exposure to COVID-19. If you don’t know when you were exposed (for example, you received a COVID Alert notification), you should isolate for 14 days from the date you were swabbed.

    What if I tested negative for COVID-19?

    If you tested negative for COVID-19 you can return to normal activities after your symptoms have been improving for 24 hours.

    If you are returning from international travel or are a confirmed contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and you test negative, you still must self-isolate for 14 days and be symptom-free before resuming your regular activities.

    What if I didn’t get tested for COVID-19?

    If you did not get tested for COVID-19 you are considered recovered and can resume your regular activities 10 days after your symptoms began if you have no fever and your symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours.

    How do I know if it’s safe to send my child to school?

    Use Ontario’s School and Child Care Screening Tool to help you decide if your child should go to school or child care.

    This screening cannot diagnose your child. If you have medical questions, consult a health care provider or your local public health unit.   Listen to the advice of your local public health unit first, as their advice overrules the advice in this screening.

    Your school board may have a screening checklist. Check your school board for more information about its requirements.

  • What is physical distancing? When should I be physical distancing?

    Physical distancing means making sure you stay at least two metres (six feet) away from others whenever possible. It also means limiting contact with others and staying home when you’re sick.

    You should always practise physical distancing unless you are with members of your household. Physical distancing is essential both indoors and outdoors. If you are in a situation where physical distancing is difficult, you should wear a mask or face covering.

  • Should I wear a facemask when I'm out in public?

    Ontario’s doctors say wearing a mask or other face covering is one of the easiest and most effective things everyone can do to stop the spread of COVID and save lives.

    Depending on where you live, you may be required to wear a mask or face covering to enter public spaces. Read Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework and find out what restrictions apply to your region.

    Some recent studies suggest that masks can also reduce the severity of infection for anyone who does catch the virus.

    Masks reduce the spread of COVID-19 by blocking the infected droplets coming out from your nose and mouth. Most people do not require medical-grade masks, which should be reserved for health-care workers and other first responders.

    For masks to be most effective, Ontario’s doctors recommend:

    • Non-medical masks or face coverings should be made of at least three layers of tightly woven material, be large enough to cover the nose and mouth completely, fit securely and keep their shape after washing.
    • You should wash your hands before you put a face covering on and after you take it off. Remember the outside of the mask or covering is considered dirty.
    • Do not adjust your face covering or touch it in any way while wearing it. Do not share your mask. After you take it off, wash it in hot water or throw it out.

    Masks or face coverings should not be worn by anyone under the age of two or anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated or unable to remove their mask without assistance.

    In addition to wearing a mask, Ontario’s doctors remind all Ontarians to continue to limit indoor gatherings to household members, wash your hands frequently and keep a physical distance of two metres from anyone you encounter outdoors.

    When you come into contact with others who are not in your household, practise physical distancing. Be sure to stay at least two metres (six feet) away from others and clean your hands often.

    For more information, see the Ontario government's guidance on face masks and non-medical face coverings.

  • What is contact tracing? Why is it important?

    Contact tracing is the process of identifying, educating and monitoring people who have had close contact with someone infected with COVID-19. These people are at greater risk of becoming infected and sharing the virus with others. Public health officials use contact tracing to help people who’ve been in contact with the virus understand their risk and limit further spread of the virus by getting tested and self-isolating.

    Ontario’s doctors recommend that you download the COVID Alert mobile app to protect yourself and your community. You can also keep a personal record of places you have been and people you have been in contact with for the past two weeks.

    The OMA has put together a Contact Tracing Fact Sheet with more information on how you can help stop the spread of COVID-19.

    I tested positive for COVID-19. What information should I have prepared to tell my public health unit?

    If you test positive for COVID-19, your public health department will need to know who you’ve had contact with and your symptoms when you were in contact with these people.

    What if I don’t know the person I had prolonged contact with?

    Note where and when the contact took place, and anything you do know about them. For example, you had a prolonged conversation with a produce worker in your local grocery store. Contact tracers can use the information you do have to trace your contacts.

    Advice from an expert

    Listen to Dr. Chris Mackie, the Medical Officer of Health and CEO for the Middlesex London Health Unit talk about the importance of contact tracing in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

  • How is Ontario going to resume in-person medical care safely?

    Doctors across the province have implemented new protocols to keep you safe.

    • Washing and sterilizing clinic surfaces and equipment multiple times a day
    • Observing strict physical distancing protocols by everyone in the clinic
    • Wearing personal protective equipment to keep everyone safe.

    Wear a mask or face covering if seeing your doctor in person.

  • Can I still see my doctor or a specialist if I have a medical concern?

    Take your doctor’s expert advice and do these things to reduce the spread of COVID:

    Ontario’s doctors and specialists are open for business during the COVID-19 pandemic and are doing everything they can to continue to care for patients.

    If you need health care – including non-COVID care, please call your doctor’s office.

    In addition to in-person care, family doctors and specialists are able to deliver care through virtual means – by phone or video.

    Virtual care helps to keep patients out of waiting rooms where they could be at risk of infecting others or becoming infected themselves.

    Patients can access virtual care two main ways:

    • By calling their primary care doctor or specialist
    • By contacting a virtual care clinic directly, including the province’s Ontario Virtual Care Clinic, which is for patients with non-COVID-19 health concerns. Visit the Ontario Virtual Care Clinic at seethedoctor.ca.

    Virtual care visits by phone or video are covered by OHIP. Learn more about what to expect from a virtual visit.

    Can I still see a doctor if I am uninsured?

    The government of Ontario has confirmed that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of health care will be covered for uninsured patients. If you are uninsured and need health care – including non-COVID-19 care, please see a doctor. Search on Healthcare Access Ontario to find the closest walk-in clinic to you that accepts uninsured patients.

  • I'm young. Can I catch COVID-19?

    Yes. Anyone can catch COVID-19.

    While it is true older people are more likely to be severely affected, young people are not immune to COVID-19. As the virus spreads across the world, people between the ages of 18-40 are making up a significant portion of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. In Canada, new COVID-19 cases among youth and young adults are reported every day.

    People of all ages should practise physical distancing. Many young people who’ve contracted COVID-19 experience mild or no symptoms and can unknowingly spread the virus if they continue interacting with others.

    Young people who do not practise physical distancing put themselves and others at risk.

  • How do I make sure my family knows what my wishes are in case I become ill?

    The process of sharing your wishes for your future health and personal care with your family and/or Substitute Decision Maker (SDM) is called Advance Care Planning. This is an opportunity to communicate your wishes, values and beliefs with your family or SDM so that they can make future health care decisions for you if you are not capable to make them yourself.

    Regardless of age, having the conversation about advance care planning is a smart idea for everyone. It’s always better to be prepared. Advance Care Planning is appropriate for individuals age 16 or older.

    Advance Care Planning involves the following:

    • Designating a Substitute Decision Maker (SDM): a person who can speak for you if you cannot speak for yourself. This can include a guardian, spouse or partner or someone you designate with a Power of Attorney for Personal Care
    • Communicate your values and wishes. Let your SDM, family and close friends know. Have a conversation with your family doctor. They are available to answer any pressing medical questions you may have.
    • Document your wishes. After having the conversation with your family and/or SDM, it is recommended that you document your wishes. Visit Speak Up Ontario for more information on Advance Care Planning and on how to record your wishes.

    The OMA has also developed a guide on important information you need to provide in case you need to seek care for COVID-19.

    Plan Well Guide is a free online tool to help people learn about medical treatments and prepare them for decision-making during a serious illness, like COVID-19. It’s about getting the medical care that’s right for you or your loved one.

  • What symptoms of COVID-19?

    The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other respiratory infections, such as influenza. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include:

    • Fever (feeling hot to the touch, a temperature of 37.8 degrees Celsius or higher
    • Chills
    • Cough that's new or worsening (continuous, more than usual)
    • Barking cough, making a whistling noise when breathing (croup)
    • Shortness of breath (out of breath, unable to breathe deeply)
    • Sore throat
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Runny, stuffy or congested nose (not related to seasonal allergies or other known causes or conditions)
    • Lost sense of taste or smell
    • Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
    • Headache that’s unusual or long lasting
    • Digestive issues (nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain)
    • Muscle aches
    • Extreme tiredness that is unusual (fatigue, lack of energy)
    • Falling down often
    • For young children and infants: sluggishness or lack of appetite

    Your risk of experiencing severe symptoms is higher if you have a weakened immune system. This may be the case for:

    • Older people
    • People with chronic disease (for example, diabetes, cancer, heart, renal or chronic lung disease)
  • Is it true that certain anti-malarial and anti-bacterial drugs such as hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin are effective in the treatment of COVID-19?

    At this time, there is a serious lack of evidence that supports the widespread use of either hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. In addition, there are significant potential adverse effects if using either of these drugs with other medications, particularly for those with chronic medical conditions such as kidney failure.

If you have questions regarding medical advice please contact your doctor or other medical provider.

For general information please visit COVID-19.Ontario.ca

For the latest on travel information please visit travel.gc.ca

We will let you know when updated information is posted on askontariodoctors.ca/virusfacts

If you have questions about COVID-19 in your region, contact your public health unit