State of emergency: COVID-19 in Niagara

Frequently Asked Questions on Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Niagara Region Public Health and Emergency Services is closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an evolving situation and we'll continue to update information as it becomes available.

The health and well-being of our residents is our top priority, and we work daily with local hospitals, primary care, emergency services, the Ministry of Health, Public Health Ontario, and other provincial and federal partners in response to this new virus.

All persons returning to Canada are required by law to self-isolate for 14 days.



  • Should I be covering my mouth and nose (face coverings) in public?

    Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, encourages individuals who do not have symptoms of the Novel Coronavirus to wear non-medical masks when in public as an "additional measure" to protect other people during the pandemic. There's growing evidence that people infected with COVID-19 are able to transmit the virus before they develop symptoms.

    Dr. Tam says (from a news conference on April 6, 2020) that, "Wearing a non-medical mask, even if you have no symptoms, is an additional measure that you can take to protect others around you in situations where physical distancing is difficult to maintain, such as in public transit or maybe in the grocery store."

    Dr. Tam urges Canadians to leave the supply of medical-grade masks for health care workers, which aligns with guidance from the World Health Organization, who also address the mask debate.

  • How long does the coronavirus live on surfaces?

    It's not certain how long COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Preliminary information on COVID-19 suggests that the virus may live on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days depending on:

    • Temperature
    • Type of surface
    • Humidity of the environment

    High touch surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. Clean your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or hand sanitize. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

    Products shipped within or from outside of Canada could also be contaminated. However, because packages usually take days or weeks to be delivered, and are shipped at room temperature, the risk of spread is low. There is no known risk of coronaviruses entering Canada on parcels or packages.

  • Who should self-isolate?

    You must self-isolate if you fall under one of the following:

    • Start to develop symptoms
    • Are required to do so under the Quarantine Act due to travel outside of Canada
    • Are a close contact of a positive case with COVID-19
    • Are a laboratory confirmed case with COVID-19
  • Should I avoid contact with pets or other animals if I am sick with COVID-19?
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you restrict contact with pets and other animals while you're sick with COVID-19, just like you would around other people.

    Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it's still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you're sick.

    If you're sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you're sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a facemask.

  • What if I am caring for someone with COVID-19?

    The only people in the household should be those who are responsible for providing care to the sick person.

    People who are not taking care of the sick person should make arrangements to live somewhere else until the sick person is better. If this is not possible, other people in the home should stay in another room or be separated from the sick person.

    • Take care of yourself. Monitor yourself for any signs of illness, and separate yourself immediately if you're staring to feel sick with a fever, new cough or shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.
    • If you begin having symptoms, contact your health care professional or Niagara Region Info-Line immediately at 905-688-8248 and press 7, then press 2.
    • Clean your hands often. Alcohol-based hand rub / sanitizer is preferred. However, plain soap and water is acceptable if alcohol-based hand rub isn't available. If hands are visibly soiled, clean them with plain soap and water immediately.
    • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE), gloves, mask and eye protection, while providing care or in the same room as the sick person
    • When you walk out of the sick persons' room, remove PPE in this order to reduce the risk of getting germs on your hands or face:
      • Remove gloves, wash your hands.
      • Remove eye protection
      • Remove your mask by holding only onto the ear loops or ties (do not touch the front of the mask that was over your face) and throw your used mask into a covered, plastic lined garbage can and wash your hands
      • Clean eye protection with a cleaner / disinfectant as per manufacturer's instructions or place into a container for later cleaning / disinfection
      • Clean your hands again
  • Is Niagara Region Public Health and Emergency Services contacting the close contacts of Niagara's confirmed cases?
    Yes. Public health nurses are working directly with the close contacts of all laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases in Niagara. They're providing close contacts with medical direction.

    Watch this video where they explain the contact tracing process Public Health performs with every positive COVID-19 case from Dr. Hirji and Sandra, a nurse from the infectious disease program.

  • What healthy habits should I be practising to protect my family from getting germs or spreading germs?
    Everyone should be following these recommendations to protect yourself from COVID-19.

    Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces daily.

Public Facilities, Events / Gatherings

  • How does the COVID-19 pandemic affect holidays, special occassions or gatherings?
    Faith-based observances, holidays and special occasions, such as birthdays, anniversaries and baby showers are usually a time to gather and spend time with family and friends. This year, everyone is urged to continue to follow federal, provincial and local orders as well as public health recommendations. Places of worship remain closed and all organized public events and gatherings of over five people are prohibited. This doesn't apply to private households that normally have five or more members living there.

    We encourage you to connect with family, friends and neighbours either online or by phone. If you, or someone you know is feeling isolated, anxious or is in need of extra support, help is available. Are you planning a meal for members of your household? Continue to follow the general advice for grocery shopping during this time:

    • Try to shop once per week. Know what you need before going in, and don't casually browse or socialize with other shoppers.
    • Practice physical distancing by staying 2 metres (6 feet apart) from other shoppers and grocery employees as much as possible
    • Look up store hours ahead of time as some stores are dedicating time to seniors, vulnerable persons and essential service workers (normally the first hour that stores are open)
    • Don't touch food or products you're not intending to buy and wash all produce when you get home
    • If possible, pay with a bank card or phone tap rather than cash

    It's also a time to remember that with many businesses closed, some in our community are struggling without an income. Consider donating non-perishable food items to your local food bank.

  • What should I do about public gatherings of five or more during the COVID-19 pandemic?
    As of March 28, 2020, the Ontario government, based on the best advice of Ontario's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, issued a new emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to prohibit organized public events and social gatherings of more than five people.

    Organized public events include weddings, social gatherings and communal services within places of worship.

    This order would not apply to private households with five people or more. It would also not apply to operating child care centres supporting frontline health care workers and first responders provided the number of persons at each centre does not exceed 50 people.

    The Government of Ontario has provided detailed information to help keep Ontarians safe.

  • Are outdoor recreational amenities closed to the public?
    Yes, outdoor recreational amenities are closed. This includes municipal and school playgrounds, sports fields, off-leash dog parks, beaches, picnic areas and others.

    Restrictions may be expanded or modified by the Government of Ontario. Visit Ontario's website for a full list of what is closed.

Local Businesses

General Information

  • Can I go for a vaccination appointment?
    Vaccinations protect from serious diseases. As long as you're not self-isolating, you can leave home to go to a vaccination appointment for routine vaccines.

    Contact your health care provider or walk-in clinic for an appointment.

  • Can I go for a walk?
    If you returned to Canada after March 25, 2020, you're legally required to stay in self-isolation according to the Federal Quarantine Act.

    • If you're self-isolating and you have any (one or more) COVID-19 symptoms, you must stay home from work, school and public areas. Do not go for walks. Review the requirements for self-isolation.
    • If you're asked to self-isolate but you remain completely asymptomatic (without any COVID-19 symptoms), you may go for a walk. Always maintain physical distancing (2 metres apart from others) and do not interact with others
    If you're not a returning traveller, have not been told to self-isolate and do not have any respiratory symptoms (such as fever, shortness of breath and / or new cough), you may go out for a walk. Always maintain physical distancing (2 metres apart from others) and do not interact with others.

    Outdoor recreational amenities are closed, including:

    • Municipal and school playgrounds
    • Sports fields
    • Off-leash dog parks
    • Beaches
    • Picnic areas

    Restrictions may be expanded or modified by the Government of Ontario.

    If you're over 70 years of age or have underlying medical conditions and / or compromised immune systems, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health recommends only leaving your home for essential reasons. This means only leaving home or seeing other people for essential reasons. Where possible, you should seek services over the phone or internet or ask for help from friends, family or neighbours with essential errands.

  • Can I go for a leisurely drive?
    • If you returned to Canada after March 25, 2020, you're legally required to stay in self-isolation according to the Federal Quarantine Act
    • If you're self-isolating and you have any (one or more) of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, you must stay home and indoors. Don't go to school, work or any public areas, and do not go for a leisurely drive.
    • If you're asked to self-isolate but you remain completely asymptomatic (without any of the Novel Coronavirus symptoms):
      • You may take a leisurely drive, but you must not drive with anyone else except other members of the household.
      • If you stop and get out of the vehicle for any reason, always maintain physical distancing (2 metres apart from others) and do not engage in interactions with others.
  • Why are the COVID-19 numbers reported differently by various sources?
    Results posted by Niagara Health may differ from the results posted on our Niagara Region Public Health COVID-19 webpage or posted by the Ontario Ministry of Health:

    • Due to the time of day when data is reported
    • Statistics reported by Niagara Health are for persons tested by Niagara Health. Their results do not include persons tested elsewhere in Niagara (for example through primary care) and may include persons who reside outside of Niagara
    • Niagara Region Public Health reports only results pertaining to Niagara residents

    Our COVID-19 webpage is updated daily at noon.

  • How do I access my COVID-19 lab results?

    Ontario has launched a new user-friendly online portal for the public to easily access their COVID-19 lab test results. By offering faster and secure access to test results on your computer or mobile device, this portal will help ease pressures on public health units and frontline workers to provide this information so they can better focus on containing COVID-19. It can take up to approximately seven days to receive test results for COVID-19.

    Niagara Region Public Health will follow-up with you only if you test positive for COVID-19.

    While waiting for test results, continue to self-isolate.

    If you receive a positive test result

    Continue to self-isolate and a public health nurse will call you within 24 hours. If you need to speak to someone, call the COVID-19 Info-Line.

    If you receive a negative test result

    If you no longer have any respiratory symptoms and weren't required to self-isolate before developing symptoms (you haven't been told you're a contact of a confirmed case, nor have you recently travelled outside of the country), then you can go back to work.

    If you receive an indeterminate result

    Indeterminate results are not complete. Continue to check back in a day or two for your results.

    We continue to encourage physical distancing, avoiding public places and self-monitoring for symptoms.

  • Will Niagara post the municipality the confirmed cases live in?
    Niagara Region releases information to the public based on what's in the public interest to know their risk level, while balancing the need to protect the privacy of the clients we serve.

    We can confirm that Niagara is now seeing COVID-19 cases in every municipality. It is important for all of us to continue to do our part to stop the spread. Consult how to protect yourself from COVID-19 for prevention information.
  • What is the severity of the new coronavirus?
    Across the globe, we're seeing 80 per cent of cases having mild to moderate illness. Elderly people and those with underlying medical conditions are often experiencing more severe illness.
  • How is the new coronavirus transmitted?
    The virus transmits from person to person through coughing and sneezing, just like the common cold or flu.
  • Is there a vaccine that protects against coronaviruses in humans?
    Currently, there is no vaccine that protects against coronaviruses in humans.
  • Will warm weather stop the outbreak of COVID-19?
    At this time, it's not known whether the spread of COVID-19 will decrease when weather becomes warmer. Some other viruses, like the common cold and flu, spread more during cold weather months, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months.

    There's much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with COVID-19 and investigations are ongoing.

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