Questions and Answers on COVID‑19

Tap a question to reveal the answer. All content is sourced from reputable organizations and is for information only and not a substitute for medical advice. This information is current as of May 14, 2020.

About COVID-19

The virus responsible for COVID-19 is a new (or novel) virus and COVID-19 is a new disease. The virus belongs to a known family called coronaviruses, but it has not been identified previously. Coronaviruses also cause some types of the common cold as well as SARS. Medical professionals are still learning about what makes this specific virus different from the flu and other viruses.

Here are some differences between COVID-19 and the flu:

  • Rate of infection/transmission. With COVID-19, and absent physical distancing, transmission experts are seeing one person give the virus to 2 to 2.5 people which is higher than the flu.
  • Incubation time, from exposure to first symptoms. With COVID-19, the incubation time is one to 14 days. The flu has an incubation time of one to four days.
  • Higher risk populations. COVID-19 data indicates that children are less likely to be affected by the virus than adults. Typically, children are key drivers of flu transmission in the community.
  • Mortality rate. Based on early data, COVID-19 appears to have a higher mortality rate than the flu (especially seasonal flu).

The number of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada changes daily. For an accurate (current) picture of the number of COVID-19 case in Canada, including provincial breakdowns, visit Health Canada’s website.

According to the World Health Organization, all available evidence suggests that the novel coronavirus first appeared in China at the end of 2019 and was not manipulated or produced in a laboratory.

Medical professionals don’t know. Because COVID-19 is a new virus, it is not yet known if people can develop an immunity to COVID-19 after recovering. Research into this issue is being actively pursued at the moment.

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus.


To date, the symptoms in children appear to be similar to those in adults — essentially cold-like symptoms but vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported. It is still not known if children with underlying health issues are at higher risk for severe illness. While children appear to be at lower risk for serious complications, their symptoms should be taken seriously as there have unfortunately been credible reports of children and infants succumbing to the illness.

There’s still a lot to learn about COVID-19, but it appears that older persons and persons with pre-existing medical conditions (such as heart disease, hypertension, lung disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes or weakened immune systems) may be more likely to develop serious illness than others. Symptoms of serious illness include difficulty breathing and/or pneumonia.

It may take up to 14 days for symptoms to appear after exposure to COVID-19. Evidence shows that the virus can be transmitted by someone who is infected but showing some to no symptoms. People can be pre-symptomatic and not yet develop symptoms or asymptomatic and never develop symptoms.

Keep in mind as well that some people initially test negative for the virus but later go on to test positive. In general, if someone has symptoms that could be consistent with COVID-19 infection, and they meet the requirements for testing in their jurisdiction, they should proceed with testing even if someone in their household has already tested negative.

In all cases, it is extremely important to follow proper hygiene and preventive measures to limit the spread of the virus.

The common cold, seasonal allergies and COVID-19 share some similar symptoms, like a runny nose and nasal congestion. One of the main indicators of COVID-19, particularly in more serious cases, is fever. Those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 can also experience other symptoms such as tiredness, dry cough, aches and pains, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell or body aches.

However, many people with COVID-19 have very mild symptoms and may not develop a fever, while others will present with more unusual symptoms such as confusion and disorientation. The only way to conclusively diagnose COVID-19 is through testing. As testing becomes more widely available, we may identify more people with mild symptoms.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness and dry cough.

Some patients may have cold-like symptoms, aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin to resolve gradually over a few days.

Some of the less common symptoms reported include aches and pains, headache, sore throat, diarrhea, red or irritated eyes, loss of taste or smell, and a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes.

Elderly people may present quite differently depending on the severity of the illness. In some cases, it may manifest as confusion, lethargy or increased risk of falling. In very young patients, there have been recent reports of rashes and skin changes on the hands and feet.

Medical professionals are still learning about COVID-19. Although severe illness can occur in otherwise healthy individuals of ANY age, it predominantly occurs in adults with advanced age or underlying medical conditions. We do not yet know why it can vary so much from one person to another.

COVID-19 is a new disease and we are still learning how the virus responsible for COVID-19 spreads.

Yes, experts believe this is occurring. One could be infected with COVID-19 and have few to no symptoms, or symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear. This is why it’s important for everyone to practise physical distancing — it’s one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19 at this time.

If your symptoms are potentially life threatening, call 911. This would include symptoms such as chest pain and/or difficulty breathing. If your symptoms are serious or worsening, call your health care provider or call your local public health authority and ask for guidance. If your symptoms are mild, isolate yourself in your home for 14 days and minimize contact with others in your home to avoid spreading the virus. Most people with mild coronavirus illness will recover on their own. Your health care provider may recommend steps to take to relieve symptoms.


No. There’s no current evidence to suggest that mosquitoes carry and transmit COVID-19.

Yes. Coronaviruses, including the virus causing COVID-19, do mutate. Researchers from around the world are still determining how possible mutations may affect populations. At this point, there’s no evidence to suggest the mutations have increased the likelihood of being infected with the virus or of developing complications once infected.

COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through droplets, which are generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. People can become infected if they breathe in these droplets. Some of these droplets also land on surfaces. Other people can catch the virus if they touch these contaminated surfaces and then touch their nose, eyes or mouth.

It is not yet clear whether someone can become infected if, for example, they walk through and inhale virus particles present in a fine mist after an infected person coughs or sneezes.

COVID-19 is most commonly spread from an infected person to another person through:

  • respiratory droplets (e.g., from coughing or sneezing)
  • close, prolonged personal contact (e.g., shaking hands)
  • touching something with the virus on it, then touching your face (mouth, nose or eyes) before washing your hands

Evidence suggests that spreading the virus from person to person is efficient when there is close contact. This is why physical distancing measures are so important to reduce transmission of the virus within the community.

There are a couple of factors that help the virus spread quickly. Preliminary information suggests that the virus may persist on many surfaces for several hours or even days. This means that more people can be exposed to the virus than originally thought.

Recent evidence indicates that the virus can be transmitted to others from someone who is infected but not showing symptoms. This includes people who are pre-symptomatic (not developed symptoms) or asymptomatic (never develop symptoms).

This is why physical distancing and good hygiene measures are so important.

There are many ways Canadians can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. They include:

  • staying home
  • practicing physical (social) distancing
  • washing your hands frequently
  • coughing in your sleeve – if using a tissue, discard and wash hands right away
  • disinfect high-touch surfaces often
  • avoiding all non-essential travel
  • quarantining (self-isolating) and monitoring for symptoms (cough, fever or difficulty breathing) for 14 days if you have travelled outside of Canada

Masks and Personal Protection

Wearing a surgical or medical grade mask while you’re healthy reduces the number of masks available for people who need them, particularly health care providers. Medical grade masks should be reserved for health care providers and people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

If you’re healthy, the Public Health Agency of Canada says masks alone are not protection against COVID-19. Handwashing, coughing into your elbow, not touching your face and maintaining a two metre distance are still among the best ways to prevent infection.

The Chief Public Health Officer of Canada has stated that non-medical grade or homemade masks may be useful in situations where healthy people are unable to remain two metres away from others (using public transit or at a grocery store, for example) as an additional measure to protect others. This is based on emerging evidence of community spread from asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people who are carrying the coronavirus. As provinces change their guidelines for physical distancing and reopen some businesses, they may establish their own guidelines for wearing masks. It is important to be aware of, and follow, these provincial directives.

There are now numerous online guides for making masks out of readily available household items. If you choose to wear a homemade or non-medical grade mask, be aware of the following:

  • A mask is not a replacement for physical distancing. The best protection against COVID-19 is to remain two meters away from others. Don’t let a mask give you a false sense of security.
  • There’s a potential risk of infection when putting on, taking off, and throwing out a mask. Treat the mask as if it is infected; do not touch the mask while wearing it and wash hands thoroughly anytime the mask is handled, including after it is removed.
  • When wearing a mask, ensure that it completely covers your nose and mouth.
  • You should not share masks with others.
  • Change cloth masks as soon as they are damp and soiled. Launder in hot water.
  • Often, people who use masks touch their face more frequently to adjust the mask — a well-known risk factor for introducing viruses and bacteria into the body.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or seeking medical attention, your health care provider may recommend you wear a mask. The mask acts as a barrier and helps stop tiny droplets from spreading to others when you cough or sneeze. Please follow the recommendations of your health care provider.

Reusing N95 masks after sealing them in a bag is not recommended. There is no evidence to suggest this would sterilize or clean the mask. Members of the public don’t need N95 masks for daily activities. Please consider donating any unused masks you may have to a health care facility or provider.  

The Chief Public Health Officer of Canada has stated that non-medical grade or homemade masks may be useful in situations where healthy people are unable to maintain a two-metre distance from others (e.g. when using public transit or at a grocery store). This is based on emerging evidence of community spread from asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people carrying the coronavirus.

The Canadian government has asked citizens to do their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by practicing physical (social) distancing. Mask or no mask, this is the most effective way of reducing transmission right now. That means staying home as much as possible (only going out for essential items) and staying at least two metres apart from others.

We do know that people with no symptoms can transmit COVID-19 to others. Even if we are diligent with our hygiene, we must treat every interaction as a risk because we don’t know who could be carrying the virus.

Homemade masks should be made with tightly woven cotton, such as quilting fabric, cotton sheets, t-shirts or bandanas. As a rule, if you can see through the fabric, it isn’t tightly woven.

A mask should consist of at least two layers and must be big enough to cover the nose and mouth without gaping. Additionally, the mask must:

  • Fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
  • Allow for easy breathing
  • Be comfortable so it doesn’t require regular adjustment
  • Be changed as soon as it becomes damp or dirty
  • Maintain its shape after washing and drying

No. Food service employees are not required to wear masks at this time, though that could change soon. Guidance from Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer instructs everyone to wear non-surgical grade masks when physical distancing is not possible. Some restaurants and other food services could already be following this guidance, particularly if their employees work in close quarters.

To protect yourself and others, practice physical distancing during food pick-up or delivery, and follow these measures:

  • Wash your hands before and after handling food containers.
  • Do not touch your face.
  • Consider disinfecting the packaging.

We still have a lot to learn about COVID-19 and how it spreads. While we do know that people are affected differently based on their health and any underlying conditions, there is no evidence to support that wearing a mask will worsen illness for those who have already been diagnosed.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, experts recommend you wear a mask to prevent spreading it to other people. The mask acts as a barrier and helps stop the tiny droplets from spreading when you cough or sneeze. Wearing a mask does not make it okay to go out, but it can help prevent the spread of germs at home when combined with other preventive measures such as frequent hand washing and physical distancing.

Talk to your health care provider if you need guidance on treatment and recovery.


Antibody testing can help determine whether someone has had an immune response to a virus. For example, when someone is infected with a virus, their body responds by producing antibodies to fight it.

An antibody blood test could also reveal who has been infected with COVID-19 ― even in asymptomatic cases.

Some experts have cautioned that someone who tests positive for antibodies doesn’t necessarily have immunity, and even for those who do, we do not know the length of time this immunity will last.

Testing and assessment centre locations vary from province to province, so it’s important to check your local area for the most accurate and up-to-date information. Some provinces have created online self-assessment tools to help determine whether you may have COVID-19 and need medical attention. In addition, each province has different requirements that people must meet before getting tested – for example, the presence of specific symptoms. You should be able to find this information on your local public health unit’s website.

No testing method will detect COVID-19 accurately every single time. Tests may come back negative for a number of reasons, including:

  • Timing: If the test was done too early or too late in the course of the infection.
  • Issues with the sample: In collection, transport or processing of the specimen (e.g. if the swab does not reach the virus or isn’t transported at the correct temperature).

Negative test results do not rule out a COVID-19 infection. Even if your results are negative, continue to self-isolate for 14 days and monitor yourself for symptoms. If you feel you need to be tested again, seek advice from your health care provider.

The Government of Canada and some provinces have online self-assessment tools you can use to help determine whether or not you have COVID-19 and need medical attention.

You will be required to answer a series of questions about your symptoms and possible exposure. Based on your answers, these tools will provide you with next steps. For example, if you indicate you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you will be instructed to seek emergency medical care: severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, confusion, loss of consciousness.

Treatment & Recovery

Although current data varies by region, early estimates from the World Health Organization estimate that 80 per cent of people who contract COVID-19 will recover without having to go to the hospital. Those who are hospitalized due to more severe illness often need oxygen to help them breathe. In very severe cases, patients experience respiratory failure and need a ventilator. Those with pre-existing health conditions are at a higher risk of experiencing severe illness, but in other cases there is no way to predict who would require ventilator support.

While we know the symptoms of COVID-19, we don’t yet know the long-term effects it can have on someone. Respiratory infections can affect the lungs long term, but the severity will depend on the extent of the illness, age and other factors.

For most patients with mild to moderate illness, the recovery period is around two weeks. Those who are sick for longer will have a longer recovery period, especially if they require breathing supports like oxygen or a ventilator. Some patients with very severe illness and who require ICU admission will need formal rehabilitation to help them recover.

Reports emerge on a near daily basis of treatments that seem to have been effective in one or a few patients, but no vaccine or drug has been approved to prevent or treat COVID-19 yet.

Clinical trials are underway to investigate certain promising vaccines (for prevention) and possible drug therapies (for treatment). Some interventions are already being used based on anecdotal evidence, or as part of formal clinical research trials.

Health care providers are doing their best to stay on top of the latest evidence to treat people who have been diagnosed and help them relieve their symptoms.

As mandated by the Canadian government and public health officials, anyone returning from travel abroad (and from certain provinces and territories) or anyone who has been exposed to the virus must self-isolate for 14 days. Some provinces require anyone returning from any location to self-isolate for 14 days; it is important to be aware of your provincial requirements.

The 14-day duration is based on COVID-19’s total incubation period ― the time between catching it and beginning to show symptoms. Although it ranges between one day to 14 days, people often show symptoms around the fifth day.

If you aren’t showing any symptoms after 14 days, then it’s unlikely you have COVID-19.

Most people with mild COVID-19 illness will recover on their own. If you have underlying medical conditions and/or are concerned about your symptoms, call your health care provider. In addition to isolating yourself at home for 14 days to reduce the risk of spread, they may recommend steps you can take to relieve symptoms, such as:

  • rest and sleep
  • keep warm
  • drink plenty of liquids
  • use a room humidifier or take a hot shower to help ease a sore throat and cough

If you develop a fever and cough and have difficulty breathing, immediately contact your health care provider or local health unit for instructions.

When caring for someone who is sick there are three principles to follow: limit contact, protect yourself and keep the environment clean.

It is recommended that only one healthy person — without underlying medical issues — care for someone with the virus. Ideally, you should not share a bedroom, bathroom, electronic devices, utensils, etc., with the person.

If you need to be within two metres of the infected person, you should wear a face mask, eye protection and disposable gloves if at all possible. Do not reuse masks and disposable gloves. Wash your hands often for a minimum of 20 seconds and dry them with paper towels. If paper towels are not available, dry your hands with a cloth towel but replace it when it gets wet. Avoid touching your face.

Regularly disinfect surfaces and things that people touch often, such as toilets, laundry containers, bedside tables, doorknobs, phones and television remotes, using approved hard-surface disinfectants.

Make sure to have a lined container like a garbage pail available to dispose of used face masks, gloves, tissues and other contaminated items. Laundry items used by the infected person should be placed into a container with a plastic liner and can be washed with regular laundry soap and hot water (60–90°C). Dry well.

Assuming you have no underlying medical conditions, a fever is an indicator that your body needs rest. If your fever is interrupting your ability to rest, you should consider medicating. If your fever remains mild and does not cause significant discomfort, you may choose not to treat it. You should monitor your fever closely because a high fever could, in some cases, be an indicator of pneumonia. If you experience high fever or difficulty breathing, promptly contact your health care provider or local health unit for instructions.

Assuming you are an otherwise healthy person, a low-grade fever is generally harmless and is an indicator the body is fighting an infection. If you are experiencing moderate or high fevers that interrupt your ability to rest, acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used to manage pain and lower the fever. When a high fever cannot be controlled with acetaminophen or ibuprofen alone, they can be used together until your temperature returns to normal.

Generally speaking, people recovering in hospital who spend large amounts of time on their backs (after surgery, or in intensive care units) are more susceptible to bacterial pneumonia because the position allows fluid to settle in the lungs. This is why great care is taken to rotate and move patients regularly. In the context of COVID-19, the cause of pneumonia is the virus itself — not lying on one’s back. If you are having difficulty breathing unless you are in a seated position, you should contact your health care provider immediately.

If at any point you become concerned about your symptoms, you should contact your physician or local health authority — preferably by phone. If you develop difficulty breathing, you should seek medical attention immediately.

If you have a fever, aches and pains and/or chest congestion you should postpone your exercise regime. Those symptoms are your body’s way of telling you that you need to rest.

If you’ve had a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 you should speak to your health care provider. What we can say is most people with mild coronavirus illness will recover on their own within one to two weeks. As with any illness that includes fever or chest congestion, the key is to rest and give your body the time to recover. Because you may remain contagious for some time, it is extremely important to follow public health guidelines on self-isolation and whether you need testing or not. If you have been hospitalized for your illness, please follow the directives given to you upon your discharge.


The reopening of fitness centres and non-essential businesses will vary based on provincial/territorial public health recommendations. Once fitness centres reopen, likely under a phased approach, there will be safety measures in place for them to meet public health guidelines (limited capacity, more space between equipment, etc.). These changes will likely be in place for the foreseeable future.

Regular physical activity is important. It’s best to train at home or outdoors. If you’re practicing physical distancing guidelines and good hygiene, there’s no evidence that exercising outdoors increases the risk of being infected. However, before going to a park, open space or path, check with your jurisdiction to learn if there are any restrictions in effect.

Exercising in a recreational facility or yoga studio poses potential risks of COVID-19 infection, due to the proximity of people and shared equipment. It’s possible to transmit the virus through person-to-person contact, touching a contaminated surface or from aerosols/droplets from an infected individual.

Several studies have evaluated the intake of specific nutrients in relation to other infections. There is some evidence that zinc and vitamin C supplements may have some benefit for respiratory infections, but it’s not conclusive. There are many factors to consider before starting a supplementation program, including the medications you are currently taking.

Take precautionary measures when supplementing, as megadoses of essential minerals and vitamins can sometimes be harmful. Supplements should not be considered as substitutes for a healthy diet. Consider eating a variety of healthy foods each day, according to Canada’s Food Guide, and speak with a physician before starting a specific supplementation program.

The feelings you’re experiencing are normal ― it’s okay to feel worried or stressed. Here are some suggestions for coping:

  • Stay connected with friends, family and colleagues while maintaining physical distancing. Pick up the phone or send a text. Stay in touch!
  • Keep a routine to give yourself some structure. Make sure you build in time for enough sleep, proper nutrition and exercise.
  • Maintain perspective by remembering that most people who contract COVID-19 will experience mild illness and that we will get though this difficult time.
  • Limit your social media consumption and focus on doing things you enjoy (e.g. reading, cooking or playing games with your kids). Spending too much time consuming news about the pandemic may increase your level of anxiety.
  • Seek help if you need it:
    • Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
    • Crisis Services Canada national line: 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645 (in Quebec, call: 1-866-277-3553).
    • If the risk is immediate, call 9-1-1.

These are very difficult times. As a friend, try to stay connected, while respecting physical distancing measures. Consider regular virtual check-ins, by phone or video. If you feel the situation is urgent or that there’s an immediate risk to your friend, call 9-1-1.

Other support services include:

  • Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
  • Crisis Services Canada national line: 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645 (in Quebec, call: 1-866-277-3553).


Developing a vaccine takes time, in most cases several years, as they need to undergo extensive testing in clinical trials to determine their safety and efficacy. Health Canada is closely monitoring vaccine development efforts for COVID-19, in Canada and abroad. They’re working with developers, researchers and manufacturers, as well as streamlining regulatory and purchasing measures to prepare for a vaccine becoming available.

Immunization is essential, especially during these uncertain times, and delaying vaccinations could leave your child, and others, at risk of disease. If the doctor’s office where your baby or child is usually immunized is currently closed, check with your local health unit to see if they offer immunization clinics.

When bringing your baby or child to an appointment, the following measures will ensure your safety and that of others:

  • Only one adult should bring the baby or child to the appointment.
  • Don’t go to the clinic if you, your baby or child is sick or have any of the following symptoms: runny nose, sore throat, fever, cough, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, diarrhea or vomiting.
  • Don’t go to the clinic if you are in quarantine or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19. 

At this time, there is no vaccine for COVID-19.

Researchers around the world are trying to develop a vaccine against the virus responsible for COVID-19, and the World Health Organization is supporting their efforts. Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under development and being tested through clinical trials. Canadian researchers are playing an important role in this effort.

If you have received a flu vaccine, it will not protect you against infections caused by coronaviruses, including COVID-19.

No. Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against COVID-19.

Although these vaccines are not effective against the virus that causes COVID-19, vaccination against respiratory illnesses is still highly recommended to protect your health.

Household measures

Health Canada has created a list of these products that are likely appropriate for killing coronaviruses including the one that causes COVID-19. The list can be found here. To avoid serious incidents please take necessary precautions when cleaning with bleach.

What’s important to remember is that we need to clean surfaces often that are frequently used and/or touched. Some of these high-touch surfaces include toys, phones, door handles, sink and toilet handles, light switches and counters.

Yes, it is believed to be safe to support local restaurants.

There is no evidence or reported cases that would suggest food being a likely source of transmission for the COVID-19 virus and this is being closely monitored by food safety authorities and scientists around the world. However, you must continue to practice physical distancing during food pick up or delivery, and you should wash your hands frequently, especially before eating. You may wish to transfer the food from takeout containers into dishes, but making sure to wash your hands before and after the transfer. Whenever possible, consider using contactless payment methods.

Practicing proper hygiene is extremely important for people working in high-risk environments. Not only should you adhere to the infection prevention and control measures in effect at your place of employment, you should also consider taking the following steps to help protect your family when you return home:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Remove your clothes, wash them right away and place them in the dryer for a full cycle.
  • Shower.
  • Clean and disinfect your shoes, pens, badge and other high-touch items.
  • Self-isolate if you become symptomatic, either within the home or at another location (e.g., a hotel).

There’s no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by handling money. However, people should remain vigilant. Always wash your hands well after touching any currency consider using contactless payment methods whenever possible.

One of the most effective ways to prevent infection is by washing your hands frequently and thoroughly. Experts recommend you use running water to wash them (whether it’s potable or not) because there is some risk of infection if the standing water has been contaminated.

To thoroughly wash your hands, you must:

  • Use soap and warm running water (use cold water if warm water isn’t available).
  • Wash for 20 seconds, making sure you get soap on your palms, fingers, thumbs, back of your hands and under your nails.
  • Rinse well.
  • Dry your hands thoroughly with clean paper towel or a clean dry cloth.

COVID-19 spreads primarily from person to person through respiratory droplets that are expelled during coughing, sneezing or speaking. These droplets don’t travel very far and quickly fall to the ground as they’re relatively heavy. There’s currently no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 is transmitted through an airborne route (i.e., through particles floating in the air). It’s best, however, to hang your clothes in a wide-open area away from crowded spaces, bring them in only when they’re fully dry, and wash your hands regularly with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

It is possible that COVID-19 can remain on clothes for hours to days, but there is no conclusive evidence or data at this point.

Here are some simple steps you can take to minimize the risk of transmission from laundry (clothing, bed linens, towels, etc.):

  • Wear gloves (if possible)
  • Wash your hands well after handling items (whether you’re wearing gloves or not)
  • Refrain from touching your face (nose, eyes, mouth)
  • Don’t shake out the laundry before putting it in the washing machine
  • Use the warmest water possible to wash items and then dry completely
  • Disinfect any surfaces the laundry items have touched

These precautions can be helpful if you’re worried about transmission from someone who has the virus or works on the front lines, or to protect those who are immunocompromised.

Experts don’t know how long COVID-19 can survive on surfaces in a cold environment.

Other coronaviruses in the same family can survive for long periods in a frozen state – up to two years. You may wish to follow these precautions when handling groceries:

  • Wash your hands before and after handling them.
  • Do not touch your face.
  • Consider disinfecting the packaging before placing it in the freezer.

Other guidelines on safe food handling are available here.

Current evidence suggests people are unlikely to contract COVID-19 through food. Experts also believe that the virus can be killed at the same internal cooking temperatures recommended to eliminate pathogens related to foodborne illnesses. Always follow the appropriate safety precautions when handling food, like washing your hands frequently.

Yes, but remember to practice physical distancing by staying at least two metres (or six feet) away from them.

Emerging evidence has shown that droplets from uncovered coughs and sneezes can travel distances beyond two metres.

If you know your neighbour is feeling anxious or isolated, connect with them virtually or by phone whenever possible. If you happen to see them in person, keep a safe distance.

Don’t forget ― you can always greet your neighbours with a smile or a friendly wave.

Experts are still trying to understand if and how COVID-19 affects animals, including pets and livestock.

Whether or not your pets can get sick, the virus could be transmitted to another person through contact with their fur or body.

Until more is known about human to animal transmission, take similar precautions if you have symptoms as you would with other people (i.e. avoid close contact and practice good handwashing, coughing and sneezing etiquette). Also:

  • Have another member of your household care for your animals if possible.
  • If not, always wash your hands before and after touching them, their food and supplies.

If you don’t have symptoms, you can continue to take walks together, but remember to practice physical distancing ― for both you and your pet.

It’s fine to open your window and let in the fresh air! It’s also okay to spend time outdoors if you maintain two metres of physical distance from others who are not part of your household.

COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through droplets that are generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. The droplets fall to the floor or to other surfaces, as they are too heavy to stay in the air for very long.

We know the virus can survive on various surfaces, depending on different factors. For newspapers, it appears the virus could survive from a few hours to a few days, but it’s not known if it would be infectious this entire time.

However, the virus could be transmitted by touch if an infected person handled the paper before it was delivered. If you want to be cautious, consider wiping down the outer surfaces of the paper with a disinfectant wipe before reading it. While there are no conclusive reports of the virus being transmitted this way, there is still much we don’t understand about it.

When handling any objects that may have come in contact with the virus it’s important to take precautions, such as washing your hands before and afterwards and not touching your face.

The COVID-19 virus can survive on hard surfaces anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on different factors. For phones with smooth glass and/or plastic surfaces, current evidence suggests that a coronavirus could survive for up to nine days, although we don’t know if it would be infectious this entire time.

To reduce the risk of infection, disinfect your cellphone by gently wiping down the display screen, the keyboard and the exterior with a disinfecting wipe. Continue to practice good hygiene and wash your hands frequently to reduce the spread of the virus.

There is not enough research available on the effect heat may have on inactivating the COVID-19 virus. Experts believe the virus is probably inactivated at the same internal cooking temperatures recommended to safely eliminate pathogens related to foodborne illnesses. More information on safe cooking temperatures can be found here.

Take appropriate safety measures, such as washing your hands, when handling food. Continue to practice food safety when cooking, as you would under normal circumstances.

At present, there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can spread through passages such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning ducts and systems.

What we do know is that COVID-19 is most commonly spread from an infected person through:

  • Close, prolonged personal contact (e.g. handshake).
  • Respiratory droplets (e.g. coughing or sneezing).
  • Touching a contaminated object or surface, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

COVID-19 has been detected on surfaces between a few hours to a few days. This variation depends on factors like temperature, humidity and the type of surface.

To reduce the risk of infection, disinfect high-touch surfaces often using disinfectants or diluted bleach.

To date, there is no evidence to suggest that the virus has been transmitted to people in this way.

While the virus can survive on some hard surfaces, you can’t inhale the virus from grocery bags, products or packages. However, it is possible that the virus could be transmitted by touch if the package has been handled recently by an infected person, and precautions should be taken accordingly.

When handling groceries or packages, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Wash your hands before and after handling them.
  • Do not touch your face.
  • Keep non-perishable items you don’t need right away elsewhere for a few days (e.g. car, garage).

To decrease the risk of infection in your household, limit your trips to the grocery stores and send only one person.

Different Populations

People with underlying conditions, such as COPD, are not necessarily at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. However, if they get the virus, their symptoms may be more severe as COVID-19 directly affects the lungs. Consequently, there’s a higher risk of these individuals requiring hospitalization and intensive care treatment. It’s especially important for those with underlying conditions to take precautionary measures, including following physical (social) distancing rules, washing your hands, wearing a mask and avoiding contact with others who are ill.

If you’re looking after an individual who requires ongoing care, you may consider hiring a caregiver for times when you must leave the home. The caregiver will have to follow physical (social) distancing measures and wear appropriate protective equipment, such as a mask and gloves. After the caregiver leaves, you should disinfect all areas of your home they may have come into contact with.

There are a few precautionary measures new parents can follow when caring for their newborns:

  • Consider breastfeeding your baby because it lowers their risk of infection and illness. The virus that causes COVID-19 has not been found in breastmilk.
  • Minimize your risk of infection by staying home as much as possible and practicing physical distancing if you must go out.
  • Avoid having visitors in your home.
  • Wash your hands frequently, especially before and after touching the baby and other children.
  • Disinfect high-touch surfaces often.
  • Sterilize equipment (e.g. bottles and breast pumps) and don’t share it with others.

Mothers who have or suspect they have COVID-19 must isolate themselves from everyone but the baby. They should also consider wearing a mask when holding their baby. If you are too ill to care for your baby, the person who takes on that responsibility should take the precautions above. We know that some people who have COVID-19 don’t show any symptoms.

COVID-19 is known to trigger asthma exacerbations and there is evidence to suggest adults with asthma are overrepresented among those who require hospitalization.

If you suffer from asthma and would like to minimize your risk, consider asking your supervisor if you can swap your current duties for others that don’t require you to be on the frontlines.

Experts also recommend you remain on the same maintenance medications.

Many ‘high-risk’ institutions are restricting or preventing visits to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Please call ahead before visiting in person.

If you or a member of your family requires urgent care and have been instructed to visit the nearest emergency department, be prepared to be screened upon arrival for symptoms, travel and contact history. While you’re at the hospital and upon discharge, follow the directives you’ve been given closely.

This is a very personal and difficult decision to make. Each situation is unique, and there are a lot of individual factors to consider, including whether you are able to provide the care they require and if there are people in your home who are at risk of more serious complications if they get infected.

Retirement homes and similar facilities have recently updated their outbreak control measures to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19. They include:

  • revising cleaning procedures
  • closing the dining room and stopping all resident activities
  • requiring all staff members to wear masks and to work at only one facility
  • revising their medication administration schedule
  • screening anyone entering the building

Hospitals have also greatly reduced transferring patients to facilities, even if they are asymptomatic. When this is not possible, the patient must be tested prior to the transfer, and must remain in self-isolation for 14 days even if they test negative.

This is a personal choice each family needs to make based on different risk factors that affect them.

Retailers have new guidelines to help reduce the risk of infection. These include routine cleaning and disinfecting guidance, as well as how to manage any reported incidents of COVID-19 with both employees and customers.

All employees are instructed to wash their hands often, keep a safe distance from others and not touch their face.

Yes. Current evidence suggests patients living with cancer and cancer survivors may have a higher risk of health complications if they contract COVID-19. They should follow the general guidance provided by Public Health Agency of Canada to:

  • stay home
  • practice physical (social) distancing
  • wash hands well and often
  • disinfect high-touch surfaces frequently
  • avoid all non-essential travel

If you require follow-up care, consider asking your health care provider whether in-person appointments can be conducted over the phone or by videoconferencing.

Many hospitals are restricting or preventing visitors to reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, care teams do work with families to accommodate exceptional circumstances.

Most hospitals are allowing one family caregiver to accompany children, but they must be prepared to be screened upon arrival for symptoms, travel and contact history. Siblings and other visitors are not permitted. If you are unsure, call your local hospital before visiting in person.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is shown to infect people of all ages, but some are at a higher risk of severe illness. Those include people who are over 60 years old and/or have underlying medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer. Preliminary genomic research is underway to identify any other patterns in individuals affected by COVID-19 but results on susceptible genes are not available yet.

In the meantime, everyone should take the same precautionary measures to protect themselves and others.

Whether a patient gets transferred to a hospital or not depends on a few factors: the specific facility’s capabilities and policies as well as the individual person’s wishes and how significant their symptoms are.

To better control their COVID-19 outbreaks, some facilities are creating field hospitals to treat infected patients.

When appropriate, patients or their caregivers are also encouraged to discuss care options and medical interventions with their care providers in case they become ill (e.g. whether they would want to go on a ventilator).

People with medical conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, lung disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer and those with weakened immune systems appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with COVID-19.

There are many steps you can take to be prepared and reduce your risk of contracting the virus.

  • Stay home and avoid contact with anyone who is not a member of your household.
  • Talk to your health care provider about how to protect yourself and ensure you have enough prescribed medications and medical supplies on hand.
  • Clean your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer when outside of your home.
  • Frequently clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in your environment with regular household cleaners and approved hard-surface disinfectants.
  • Clean touch screens with 70% alcohol (e.g., alcohol wipes).
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose, eyes and/or food with your hands.
  • Avoid touching doorknobs, handrails and elevator buttons in public places, and if you need to, use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand.
  • Stay two metres away from people and give a friendly wave instead of a handshake, kiss or hug.
  • Stay away from those who are sick and remind others who are sick, or may have been exposed to the virus, to stay away from you.
  • Change your routine to avoid crowded places (e.g., grocery shopping at off-peak hours).

Family Planning and Pregnancy

COVID-19 is a new disease and we are still learning how the virus responsible for COVID-19 affects pregnant women. There is currently no conclusive evidence suggesting you are at greater risk if you are pregnant or that your unborn child could be affected by the virus.

However, there is emerging anecdotal evidence that a small number of pregnant women have had unforeseen complications due to COVID-19. You should continue to be followed by a physician for pre-natal care.

Pregnant women also experience changes that may increase the risk of other illnesses, such as viral respiratory infections and should take all necessary precautions:

  • Meet your health care team by telephone or videoconference except for necessary in-person medical appointments.
  • If you are working in an essential service, see if there are other work duties you can assume that will not require you to be on the front line of the pandemic. This is a cautionary approach, recognizing there is still much we don’t understand about COVID-19.
  • Stay home as much as possible and avoid contact with anyone who is not a member of your household.
  • Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes.
  • Practice physical distancing; cough or sneeze into a tissue or bent elbow; and limit trips to the grocery store, especially during peak hours.

Planning a pregnancy is a very personal decision. There is emerging anecdotal evidence that a small number of pregnant women have had unforeseen complications due to COVID-19.

If you haven’t already done so, discuss family planning with your health care provider, including all potential risks. Whether or not you decide to try to get pregnant at this time, it’s important to follow their recommendations about protecting yourself from illnesses.

General Questions

“COVID toes”, predominately seen in children, are bluish-red and purple lesions found on the toes and fingers and are a possible symptom of COVID-19 infection.

People react to infections in different ways. It’s quite common for people to get rashes or blotchy areas on the body when they’re battling a viral respiratory infection.

If you become concerned about your or your child’s symptoms, including a rash on the fingers or toes, you should contact your physician or local health authority (preferably by phone). They may recommend that you get tested.

It’s still unknown if you can catch COVID-19 from e-cigarette vapour. To reduce this possible risk, people should vape outside rather than indoors, while practicing physical (social) distancing. They should not share any smoking or vaping materials with others and should wash their hands before and after use.

Smoking and vaping tobacco or cannabis damages the lungs. Smokers and vapers are at higher risk of serious illness and complications if they get COVID-19. To protect yourself, consider quitting or reducing the amount you smoke or vape.

Under current physical distancing guidelines, you should stay at least two metres apart from others who do not live in your household. It’s preferable for individuals who are not from the same household to use separate vehicles. However, if you must carpool for an essential reason (e.g., work or a medical appointment), there are certain safety measures you can take. These include:

  • arranging the seating in the vehicle to allow at least two metres between passengers
  • limiting the number of individuals in the vehicle
  • wearing a non-medical mask, if available
  • disinfecting the vehicle between uses

No, this would not be considered safe based on current public health physical distancing requirements for people living outside of your household. You may consider non-contact alternatives (phone, online) if you are both comfortable with this approach.

If your partner is traveling and possibly being exposed to the virus, you should avoid going to your mother’s home. If no other caregiver is available and you absolutely must provide care for her, you should follow physical distancing measures, unless the care involves close contact. In either case, you should both wear appropriate protective equipment such as a face mask and gloves, wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, and ensure any surfaces you come into contact with are disinfected afterwards.

This is a personal decision. In general, arriving passengers should arrange for other transportation, such as taxis or ride-sharing services, which are more likely to have precautionary measures in place. However, should you decide to proceed with the pick-up, there are some safety measures you should keep in mind.

Do not enter the airport. Use the designated waiting areas (cellphone lots) and remain in your car until the passenger is outside the terminal. Ask your passenger(s) to sit in the back. If there are too many passengers to allow physical distancing in your vehicle, consider using two vehicles. You should also wear a face mask and disinfect the car afterwards.

All returning international and some domestic passengers must self-isolate for 14 days. Travelers should check the specific requirements for their destination and be aware that these requirements are likely to change and evolve over time ― sometimes on short notice. By picking up a passenger (or passengers), whether they live with you or not, you may also be subject to this 14-day self-isolation, unless you can take the safety measures outlined above.

If the space was cleaned properly, the surfaces in your office should present little to no risk for infection. However, there is a risk that it has spread to other employees — even if they have no symptoms. If you can’t work remotely, preventive measures like physical distancing and proper hygiene in the office can help lower your risk of infection.

To provide their employees with a safe working environment, employers should follow their local public health department’s current recommendations.

For many parents, sharing custody in a pandemic can raise many concerns. Issues can come up if one parent feels the other isn’t taking proper precautions to protect their children or if one parent has a higher risk of exposure due to their work, family situation or underlying medical conditions.

In most situations, you should do your best to maintain existing arrangements and schedules while taking all necessary precautions to protect your children. If you are struggling to reach an agreement, contact your family law mediators to find a suitable solution. Many courts are closed right now and only dealing with urgent matters.

When you’re dropping off or picking up your children, remember to follow guidance on proper hygiene and physical distancing, and consider changing the location to a place that isn’t crowded.

Canadians have been asked to practice physical (social) distancing, which means avoiding anyone who doesn’t live in your household, including other family members and significant others.

As the pandemic evolves and provinces start to ease up on restrictions, you should regularly review your local and provincial health authority’s guidance on interacting with others outside your household.

While there are some consistent physical distancing rules across the country, the number of people who can gather at one time varies from province to province. It’s important to follow your local government and health authority’s guidance and continue to practice physical (social) distancing — maintaining a two-metre distance from others regardless of the number of people gathered together.

A pulse oximeter is a small probe that clips to your finger to measure and monitor oxygen saturation in your blood. Some people with lung or heart disease use these devices to monitor and adjust their oxygen levels.

Based on what we know, some people in the later stages of COVID-19 infection will experience a drop in blood oxygen levels. Most people who have it will usually experience other symptoms early on including fever, dry cough, body aches or fatigue. In some patients however, oxygen levels can be low even in the absence of significant respiratory symptoms. Experts aren’t certain which patients are likelier to experience this symptom.

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to monitor your blood oxygen levels, one of the easiest ways to do it is by using a pulse oximeter. If you are wondering whether you should get one, consult your health care provider.

Temperature aside, experts have indicated that properly maintaining hot tubs and pools should inactivate the virus in water (including proper disinfection with chlorine and bromine).

When using these facilities, physical (social) distancing remains very important. While it’s unlikely you will pick up the virus in the water, you could get it from someone else who is infected if you don’t maintain a two-metre distance.

Yes, you should continue taking your medications as prescribed. If you stop, you could develop complications and require medical care. Before taking your medication, you should:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly and with soap for at least 20 seconds.
  2. Take your medication.
  3. Wash your hands again.
  4. Dry your hands with paper towel or a clean cloth towel that is replaced after every use.

Although evidence suggests COVID-19 can continue to live on someone’s body once they die, the length of time it remains contagious is unknown.

Professionals handling remains for funerary processes should protect themselves by following the usual infection control procedures and wearing appropriate PPE. As a precaution, others should avoid contact with the body altogether. If someone has had any contact, they should thoroughly wash their hands immediately.

Many transplant recipients are considered to be more at risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Hospitals are postponing non-essential surgeries until it’s safe for both donors and recipients. Urgent, lifesaving organ donations and transplants are proceeding on a case-by-case basis, weighing the potential risk of infection against the risk of delaying.

Experts aren’t sure whether COVID-19 can be transmitted through organ donation. As a precaution and to protect people waiting for transplants, only organs from candidates who test negative for COVID-19 can be used.

The requirement to self-isolate for 14 days after domestic travel varies by province or territory. Travellers should check the specific requirements for their destination and be aware that these requirements are likely to change and evolve over time ― sometimes on short notice.

The current recommendation is to avoid all non-essential travel. If you must travel, consult the restrictions and requirements for both your home province or territory and your destination.

All passengers will be subjected to a health check and will not be permitted to board if they:

  • are showing symptoms of COVID-19
  • have been refused boarding in the past 14 days for a medical reason related to COVID-19
  • are subject to a provincial or local public health order

New measures also require all air passengers to have a non-medical mask or face covering to cover their mouth and nose during travel.

COVID-19 is a new virus and we don’t know how long it lives on skin or hair. It’s important to follow proper hygiene to help reduce your risk of infection or of spreading infection to others.

The most important thing you can do right now is help prevent the spread of the virus. Here’s a short list of steps you can take to flatten the curve and reduce the burden on our health care system and medical providers:

  • Stay home whenever possible.
  • Be prepared in case a family member becomes ill (e.g. fill up on prescriptions, stock up on essentials).
  • Practice physical distancing by always staying at least two metres apart from others.
  • Practice good hygiene, including washing your hands well and often.

Physical (social) distancing means minimizing close contact with others. It means:

  • keeping a distance of at least two metres from others
  • avoiding crowded places, gatherings and personal greetings (e.g. handshake)
  • limiting contact with people at higher risk (older adults and those in poor health)

No, they are not the same.

Self-isolate (quarantine) means staying home for 14 days and monitoring for symptoms, avoiding contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus and practicing physical (social) distancing.

Canadians must self-isolate (quarantine) if they have:

  • returned from travel outside of Canada
  • had close contact with someone who has or is suspected to have COVID-19
  • been told by public health to do so

Isolate means staying home for a minimum of 14 days from the onset of COVID-19 symptoms and avoiding contact with others in your home (staying at least two metres apart, separate living and sleeping areas, frequent cleaning of “high-touch” areas). Individuals who must isolate have:

  • been diagnosed or are waiting for test results for COVID-19
  • experienced, or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19
  • been in contact with a suspected, probable or confirmed case of COVID-19
  • been advised by public health to do so
  • returned from travel outside Canada and have symptoms of COVID-19 (mandatory)

Given what has happened with other pandemics, some experts recommend that we prepare for a second wave of COVID-19 later this year. A second wave refers to new cases that emerge after months of seeing few or no infections.

There are many factors that will determine when a second wave might happen and how serious it might be, particularly how long we practise physical distancing measures. Experts are monitoring the experiences of countries where the epidemic started earlier.

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