Frequently Asked Questions on Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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

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.

Local Businesses

Learn about public health measures and guidelines businesses have to follow when reopening.

Travel

Prevention

  • Will Niagara's Medical Officer of Health issue an order to make wearing a face covering in public mandatory?

    No. It's not time to issue an order making face coverings mandatory in Niagara.

    Reasons for this include:

    • Enforcement: Enforcing an order on an entire region would be very challenging. A public health order requires a court filing and appearance before a judge every time one wishes to enforce the order on a person or business. A public health order would therefore be basically unenforceable.
    • Strength of science: The research on wearing face coverings in public is still ongoing and rapidly evolving. There is enough research to recommend everyone wear a face covering when physical distancing is a challenge, but the science is not strong enough at this time to make them mandatory for everyone.
    • Intention of public health orders: A public health order was never intended to be applied to an entire population. Their use is for individuals or individual groups of people. The decision to restrict the freedoms of an entire society should be a decision made by our elected officials. A by-law or provincial regulation would allow such a decision to be made by elected officials, and also allow enforcement to be handled by each municipality and their by-law enforcement officials.
  • Should my prevention practices change based on the municipality I live in?

    No. We're seeing COVID-19 in every municipality. We're all in this together and we all need to take precautions to protect ourselves and our community.

    Regardless of where you live in Niagara, it's important for all community members to continue doing their part in preventing the spread of COVID-19 by following these simple steps. COVID-19 doesn't respect municipal boundaries or land borders. Our COVID-19 statistics show what municipality confirmed cases live, but this doesn't necessarily mean this is also where they were exposed.

    It's also important for all community members to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19, even if you live in a municipality with lower case numbers. If you have even mild symptoms of COVID-19, self-isolate and contact your health care provider or our COVID-19 Info-Line to speak with a public health professional.

    Watch this video where Dr. Mustafa Hirji, Medical Officer of Health (Acting), explains the municipal data as part of the COVID-19 statistics in Niagara webpage.

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

    The most effective measures to protect yourself and those around you is to always maintain a two metre physical distance from others and to frequently clean or sanitize your hands.

    Wearing a face covering may be an added way to protect others around you, even if you don't have symptoms, particularly where physical distancing may be a challenge (e.g. on public transit, while shopping). Face coverings may not provide complete protection against viral particles, especially if they fit loosely.

    As of June 4, 2020, if you are a passenger on a plane, train, ship or taking transit, and you are unable to maintain a two metre physical distance from others, you will be required to wear a face covering. This measure is in place to keep everyone safe because there is evidence that people infected with COVID-19 are able to transmit the virus before they develop symptoms.

    To learn more about face coverings and how to properly wear, fit, remove and clean your non-medical face covering, refer to the Ministry of Health guidance and direction.

    Face coverings are not recommended for:

    • Children under the age of two
    • Anyone who has trouble breathing
    • Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance
    • Anyone who feels claustrophobic when wearing one
    • Anyone who feels lightheaded when wearing one

    A medical mask is a critical piece of personal protective equipment that must be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders.

  • A member of my household has been sent for COVID-19 testing. I am asymptomatic (no symptoms.) Do I need to self-isolate while they wait for their laboratory results?

    Yes. As a household member of someone being tested, you will also need to self-isolate, even if you're not a health care provider.

    Your self-isolation will continue until your household member gets a negative test result. This is recommended because people can transmit the infection before they develop symptoms, and it's important to rule out that you may have been exposed.

  • Is wearing rubber gloves while out in the public effective in preventing COVID-19?

    No. Regularly washing your bare hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer offers more protection against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.

    You can still pick up COVID-19 contamination on rubber gloves. If you then touch your face, the contamination goes from your glove to your face and can infect you.

    Gloves are recommended for specific situations like caring for sick individuals or to prepare some food safety. If you decide to wear gloves:

    • Clean your hands before putting gloves on and taking them off
    • Don't touch your face with gloves on
    • Don't cover your cough or sneeze into hands with gloves on
    • Gloves should be removed with care to avoid contact with the outside of the gloves
    • Always put gloves and other home health care waste in a plastic lined garbage and tightly tie the bag closed. Learn more about disposing your waste.
  • 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 living with a household member that has symptoms and is being sent for COVID-19 testing
    • Are a close contact of a positive case with COVID-19
    • Are a laboratory confirmed case with COVID-19
    • Are required to do so under the Quarantine Act due to travel outside of Canada

    Watch this video where Dr. Hirji explains the difference between self-isolating and co-isolating in a household.

  • Should I avoid contact with pets or other animals if I am sick with COVID-19?
    As a precaution, Public Health Ontario recommends you restrict contact with pets and other animals while you're sick with COVID-19, just like you would other people. This includes petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.

    When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you're sick. Service animals are permitted to remain with their handlers.

    If you're sick with COVID-19 and must care for your pet, wash your hands before and after interacting with your pet(s), and wear a face covering.

  • Can I watch someone else's pet?
    As long as the pet owner is asymptomatic, you can watch someone else’s pet. It's advisable to clean your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or hand sanitize every time you handle the pet.
  • 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 professionals 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

General Information

  • I have a pre-existing health condition (e.g. allergies, asthma, migraines and diarrhea) but my employer has asked me to get tested for COVID-19. What should I do?
    Some of the mild symptoms of COVID-19 such as a runny or congested nose, headaches or diarrhea can be attributed to other pre-existing health conditions.

    Ask yourself these questions:

    • Are your symptoms a little bit different, a little bit worse then you usually expect?
    • Do you have a new symptom you usually do not feel?
    • Have you been in close contact with someone who is either sick, sent for testing, or has confirmed COVID-19 in the past 14 days?
    • Have you returned from travel outside Canada in the past 14 days?

    If you answered yes to any of the above questions, it is very important to get tested for COVID-19.

  • I am a health care worker and tested positive for COVID-19. When can I return to work?

    While awaiting test results, you must normally self-isolate. However, if you have no symptoms, even mild symptoms, no known close contact with a positive case of COVID-19, and no travel history, but you decided to get a COVID-19 test, you can return to work but self-monitor.

    If you received a positive test result:
    Based on the latest science and new guidance from the Ministry of Health on May 2, 2020, most individuals who work in the health care field can return to work unless otherwise directed by their employer / occupational health and safety if they have:

    • Recovered from mild to moderate illness
    • Don't have shortness of breath or a fever (seek medical attention if you still have shortness of breath or a fever)
    • Were never hospitalized for their illness
    • Completed 14 days in self-isolation (starting on the day they were tested)

    Health care workers who tested positive and experienced severe illness and required hospitalization need to receive two negative results, 24 hours apart to discontinue self-isolation and return to work. The public health infectious disease nurse assigned to the case will arrange for follow up testing.

    If you received a negative test result:
    It's important to remember that a COVID-19 test is only a snapshot of your health on the specific date and time the swab was taken. No testing is perfect and a negative result doesn't mean you haven't been exposed to COVID-19. You can still develop symptoms days after your test was taken.

    If your test comes back negative, but you begin to develop COVID-19 symptoms, even if they're mild, you need to be re-tested.

    • Once you have received a negative result, you can return to work once you're asymptomatic (no longer have symptoms) as long as you have not had a known exposure (such as returning to Canada or contact with a confirmed case) to someone with COVID-19. If after 14 days, you still have symptoms, as long as your symptoms are mostly resolved and you have no fever, you can return to work.
    • If you have received a negative test result, but it has not been 14 days since your last exposure (such as returning to Canada or contact with a confirmed case), you need to stay in self-isolation for 14 days from the date of your last exposure

    Refer to the Ontario Ministry of Health guidance document (page 9) under Health and Human Resources for more information for health care workers who are critical to operations.

    Workers in the health care field include regulated health professionals, workers from retirement homes, hospitals, clinics, long-term care, independent health facilities, mental health and addictions counselling.

  • How many Niagara residents have been tested for COVID-19?
    In Niagara, we have many health care providers doing COVID-19 testing, and unfortunately, Ontario has no central repository to know exactly how many tests have been done in each local region.

    Niagara Health does the majority of Niagara's COVID-19 testing at their assessment centres. Niagara Health's testing numbers don't account for the testing done by other doctor's offices in our community, for example in:

    • Long-term care homes
    • Retirement homes
    • Hospice care
    • Or by a mobile paramedic team that travels to peoples homes who are unable to visit a testing site

    Also, some Niagara residents seek testing outside of Niagara. For example, West Niagara residents are tested at the Stoney Creek Assessment Centre.

    We work with our health care partners to test anyone who might be a case of COVID-19, even if they have unusual or mild symptoms. We want to find every case of COVID-19 in Niagara so that we can isolate them, isolate their contacts and stop every chain of transmission.

    Community members who have symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate and contact their health care professional or call our COVID-19 Info-line to speak with a public health professional by calling 905-688-8248 press 7, then press 2.

    For more information about testing in Niagara, we encourage you to watch this video from Dr. Hirji.

  • Am I at risk for COVID-19 from mail, packages or products?
    After collecting mail from a post office or home mailbox, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer. If you want to be extra cautious, retrieve the package / envelope 24 hours after delivery.

    Learn more from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about safe handling of deliveries and mail.

  • Am I allowed to grow plants and vegetables in my community garden?
    On April 25, 2020, the province of Ontario issued an emergency order that declared allotment gardens and community gardens essential.

    Allotment gardens and community gardens provide access to land (on city-owned or private property) for people who wish to grow plants and food. These gardens allow those without space at home to grow seasonal vegetables. They also support our most vulnerable through partnerships with local food banks.

    Everyone tending to these gardens must follow Public Health COVID-19 prevention measures. In particular, all participants are to:

    • Stay two metres away from others
    • Ensure soap is available on site and clean your hands with soap using an available water source for 20 seconds after gardening
    • Clean and disinfect shared items between use, such as watering cans, garden tools and hoses

    Learn more about how you can protect yourself from COVID-19.

  • 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.

    Some vaccinations can be delayed, but others are a higher priority. Speak with your health care provider or walk-in clinic for more information.

  • Can I go for a walk?

    You may not go for a walk if:

    • You returned to Canada after March 25, 2020, and you're legally required to stay in self-isolation according to the Federal Quarantine Act
    • You're self-isolating and have any (one or more) COVID-19 symptoms. You must stay home from work, school and public areas.
    • There's an individual in your home that is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and has been referred for COVID-19 testing. You (the household member, even if you don't have any COVID-19 symptoms) must stay home from work, school and public areas until the test result for the symptomatic individual in your home comes back negative. If the test result comes back positive, Public Health will follow-up.

    You may go for a walk if:

    • You have been asked to self-isolate, but you remain completely asymptomatic (without any COVID-19 symptoms)
    • You're not a returning traveller
    • You haven't been told to self-isolate
    • You don't have any respiratory symptoms

    Always maintain physical distancing (2 metres apart from others) and don't interact with others.

    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?
    You may not 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
    • 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.
    • There is an individual in your home that is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and has been referred for COVID-19 testing, you (the household member, even if you don't have any COVID-19 symptoms) must stay home from work, school and public areas until the test result for symptomatic individual (the person with symptoms) in your home comes back as negative. If the test result comes back positive, Public Health will follow-up.

    You may go for a leisurely drive if:

    • You have been asked to self-isolate but you remain completely asymptomatic (without any COVID-19 symptoms)
    • You are not a returning traveller, you have not been told to self-isolate and you don't have any respiratory symptoms
    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 don't engage in interactions with others.
  • I live outside of Niagara. Can you help me?

    We encourage you to call your local public health agency. The COVID-19 recommendations in Niagara may be different from where you live. Recommendations can vary based on the demographics of each region and the Medical Officer of Health leading the COVID-19 response.

  • 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?

    To access your lab results, visit testing and lab results for COVID-19.

  • 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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