Doctors. We lead you to better health.

URGENT: OMA President says physical distancing the most important thing you can do to keep you and your community safe.

COVID-19. What you need to know.

Ontario doctors are on the front lines.

We are working closely with the Ministry of Health and other healthcare providers to contain the virus, protect and care for patients and keep all our front-line workers healthy.

One of the best ways to protect yourself and your family is to have accurate information.

Find answers to questions about the virus on this site.

It is important that Ontarians take preventative measures to reduce risks to their health and well being. The risk of transmission is similar to that of the flu.

Simple measures such staying home as possible, handwashing and practicing proper sneezing etiquette go a long way to prevent the transmission of infectious disease. Should you need to leave your home, we urge you to keep at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and those around you. Learn more.

What is the Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Like all viruses, some people who get them experience mild symptoms, and some more severe symptoms. Some coronaviruses spread easily between people, while others do not.

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other respiratory infections, such as influenza, and include things like:

  • Fever, new cough or difficulty breathing (or a combination of these symptoms)
  • Muscle aches, fatigue, headache, sore throat, runny nose or diarrhea. Symptoms in young children may also be non-specific (for example, lethargy, poor feeding)

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

  • Older people
  • People with chronic disease (for example, diabetes, cancer, heart, renal or chronic lung disease)

What is physical distancing?

Physical distancing is limiting close contact (approximately 6 feet) with others in the community. It is key to slowing the spread. This will help to minimize the impact of the spreading virus and flatten the curve, which essentially means a longer, slower rise in numbers of patients affected. Please see the OMA policy on Physical Distancing.

In practice:

What are some physical distancing do's and don'ts?

Do:

  • Remain at home unless you must go out for essentials. Send only one person to do this.
  • Try to use delivery services or click-and-collect options (where groceries are ordered and brought to your car) for essential supplies.
  • Only attend grocery stores or pharmacies at off peak hours as much as possible. If you see lines, leave and come back.
  • Stay away from those who do not live with you. This includes extended family. Keep a minimum of 6 feet apart at all times.

Don't:

  • Host or attend playdates for your children. Try FaceTime or Zoom to keep in touch with friends.
  • Allow children to play on park equipment.
  • Host or attend non-essential meetings.
  • We urge teleworking as much as possible.
  • Host or attend family gatherings, including upcoming celebrations for Easter, Passover or any other religious holiday.
  • Attend crowded shopping areas.
  • Enter elevators if you cannot be 6 ft apart. Do not use your fingers/hands to touch elevator buttons

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

  • STAY HOME! Should you need to leave your home, we urge you to keep at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and those around you.
  • Wash your hands frequently (for 20 seconds) and use alcohol-based hand sanitizer (min. 60% alcohol content)
  • Sneeze or cough into your sleeve or a tissue (wash clothes frequently)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick and stay home from work or social engagements when you are ill.
  • Disinfect spaces regularly, and pay attention to high-touch surfaces (such as printers, desks, phones, kitchen appliances, door handles, etc.)

What is the difference between quarantine and self-isolation? How do you self-isolate if you live with family members?

Physical distancing means keeping a safe distance (approximately 6 feet) from others and avoiding gathering spaces such as schools, churches, concert halls and public transportation.

Quarantine involves avoiding contact with others if a person has been exposed to coronavirus to see if they become ill.

Isolation involves separating an individual who has contracted COVID-19 to prevent them from spreading it to others. You will also be asked to self-isolate if you have recently travelled.

For more resources:

What should I expect if I need to see my doctor about a non-COVID related matter?

You will need to call your doctor’s office before going in. Below are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • Where possible, care can be delivered by phone, video or other virtual means. This helps to keep patients out of waiting rooms where they could be at risk of infecting others or becoming infected themselves. Taking advantage of these new ways of interacting with your doctor will help protect you and others and help get you access to the care you need. Speak to your doctor’s office to learn if this may be available for you. Learn more about virtual appointments.
  • Care may be prioritized to ensure that the sickest patients have access to treatment. This does not mean that patients won’t be treated. But it does mean, for example, that if you have a periodic health visit scheduled with no time sensitive concerns, it may need to be rescheduled.
  • If you must go to your doctor’s office in person, there may be different processes in place. Some doctor offices are asking patients to wait in their cars to avoid being in the waiting room. If this is the case for you, your doctor will text or call you to let you know he/she is ready to see you.

When should I seek treatment?

If you develop COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing), self-isolate.

The majority of COVID-19 illnesses are mild. A clinician can help guide whether you will require further care or potential testing in person. Please use one of the following options:

  • Self-assessment guidance for what to do is available on the Ministry of Health website. The self-assessment will direct you to Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000), your family physician, nurse practitioner, family practice clinic, or your local public health unit.
  • You may be directed to a hospital or a regional assessment centre.
  • If you start to experience worsening symptoms, please visit your local emergency department. Call before you go and let them know you have used the government's self-assessment tool.

COVID-19 Assessment Centres

Many have been asking us about the province's newly announced self assessment centres. If you believe you or a loved one may have contracted COVID-19, call your local public health unit or Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000). You may be directed to a hospital or a regional assessment centre.

Is it true that certain anti-malarial and anti-bacterial drugs such as hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin are effective in the treatment of COVID-19?

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

Should I be asking my doctor for any of these drugs (hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin), just in case they do help treat COVID-19?

Generally, our answer is no. Your doctor is best able to answer this question, depending on your personal medical history.

While research and testing are ongoing, we strongly advise against unrestricted prescribing and dispensing of these two products.

If there is no risk to me in taking hydroxychloroquine sulfate, should I ask my doctor for it?

No. Due to the recent yet-to-be-proven claims of effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine sulfate against COVID-19 and the growth in prescribing for it, we are now faced with a very serious shortage (and some brands, outages) of the product. There is no evidence to suggest it will help you, and it could be harmful to others who need the drug. For example, the shortage presents very serious challenges for patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

How many reported cases are there in Ontario?

Up-to-date information is available from the Government of Ontario.

Travelling or returning from travel

It is recommended that you refrain from travel. If travel is considered essential:

  • Prior to travel
    • There is a global travel advisory in effect. Avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice.
  • During your return to Canada
    • If you develop symptoms of coronavirus before you leave, do not get on board any form of public transportation. Seek medical attention.
    • If you experience symptoms of COVID-19 during a flight, tell the flight attendant before you land or the border services officer as you enter the country. They will notify a quarantine officer who will assess your symptoms.
    • If you do not have symptoms but believe you were exposed to a source of COVID-19, report this information to a Canada border services agent on arrival in Canada.
  • During the 14 days after your return
    • SELF ISOLATE
    • Everyone entering Canada is REQUIRED to self-isolate for 14 days. This includes people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19.If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, contact Telehealth (1-866-797-0000) as quickly as possible or consult the Ministry of Health website. Describe your symptoms and document your travel history.
    • Disinfect spaces regularly, and pay attention to high-touch surfaces (such as printers, desks, phones, kitchen appliances, door handles, etc.)
    • Don't wear a mask unless you are sick.

Should I wear a facemask?

Don’t wear a mask unless you are sick. The most important thing you can do is to wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds.

If you have symptoms of a viral illness, then wearing a facemask can help reduce the risk of transmitting it.

The best thing for patients to do practice physical distancing where possible and follow these five tips to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • STAY HOME
  • Wash your hands frequently (for 20 seconds) and use alcohol-based hand sanitizer (min. 60% alcohol content)
  • Sneeze or cough into your sleeve or a tissue (wash clothes frequently)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands.
  • Disinfect spaces regularly, and pay attention to high-touch surfaces (such as printers, desks, phones, kitchen appliances, door handles, etc.)

How can I maintain my physical and mental health while practicing physical distancing?

Physical distancing disrupts everyone’s daily routine. Things you used to do to stay healthy may not be possible as you practice physical distancing. Finding new physical distancing-friendly routines for nutrition, exercise and social interaction will help you stay healthy.

It’s important to remember that physical distancing does not mean social isolation.

Dr. Frank Sommers, a Toronto-based psychiatrist, provides strategies to help you stay emotionally connected, and maintain your mental well-being during this trying and extraordinary time. In his OMA podcast, Dr. Sommers explains why maintaining your mental health during COVID-19 is important, and ways to adjust to life six-feet apart.

For more information, download our fact sheet.

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

For general information please visit Ontario.ca/coronavirus

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

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

Please keep me updated with information from the Ontario Medical Association.