OMA logo
Doctors. We lead you to better health.

VIRUSFACTS

What you need to know about COVID-19

UPDATE: October 9,Toronto, Peel, Ottawa and York regions are returning to modified Stage 2 of reopening restrictions for 28 days. Read the OMA’s recommendations for Ontario’s ongoing pandemic response.

Experts are working to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. When a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to you, Ontario’s doctors encourage you to get it. It is essential that everyone continues to practice public health measures such as physical distancing, wearing masks and hand hygiene to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Yes. Many medical services including vaccines were delayed due to the pandemic, but it is essential you get your child up to date on their vaccinations. Doctors’ offices are open and doctors are available to administer vaccines while taking precautions to ensure protection from COVID-19. Vaccinating your child is more important now than ever. For more information on vaccinations visit askontariodocotors.ca

Social gatherings in Ontario are restricted to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. You MUST maintain physical distancing at a social gathering. To slow the spread of the virus, it is recommended that you limit your contacts to those within your household. If you live alone, you should consider contact with one other household.

As of October 10, due to rising case counts, Toronto, Ottawa and Peel are returning to a modified Stage 2 of reopening. October 19, York region also returned to a modified Stage 2 restrictions. The modified Stage 2 restrictions prohibit indoor dining at restaurants and bars, and gyms, movie theatres and casinos are closed for 28 days. Schools in Ontario remain open.

CLICK HERE for more information on the current Ontario restrictions.

As the province reopens, Ontario's doctors recommend you:

  • Practice physical distancing.
  • Maintain good hygiene such as handwashing
  • Wear face coverings in indoor public places such as grocery stores and outdoors when physical distancing is difficult.
  • Keep track of anyone you come into contact with for a prolonged period of time or instances when you were unable to maintain physical distancing.
  • Self-isolate if you develop symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Follow all of the public health recommendations in your region.

It is also essential that Ontarians have easy access to up to date public health information. For information on the reopening of Ontario, visit the government’s coronavirus website

Ontario’s doctors are committed to providing the best patient care possible. We worked closely with government and other stakeholders to prepare for and manage through COVID-19. We are offering our expertise and leadership now to help avoid another COVID-19 surge.

Reopening Ontario to a ‘New Normal’: Five Public Health Pillars for a Safe Return – sets out a series of increased public health measures it recommends be put in place for the province to re-open safely.

Those include:

  1. Continuing personal protective measures, including wearing masks, physical distancing, influenza vaccination and hygiene practices.
  2. Continuing necessary testing with investment in and uptake of innovative testing solutions, as well as serology testing (antibody testing) and immunity research.
  3. Creating capacity to trace all case contacts, and enforce and support contact isolation.
  4. Protecting all populations, with targeted approaches to protecting children and vulnerable populations.
  5. Balancing public trust in and public compliance with the other public health pillars to safely reopen Ontario.

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

You should ALWAYS practice physical distancing unless you are with members of your social circle—the group of ten people or less that you do not physical distance with. Physical distancing is essential both indoors and outdoors. If you are in a situation where physical distancing is difficult, you should wear a mask or face covering.

Social gatherings mean any gathering of people from more than one household. In Ontario indoor social gatherings can not exceed 10 people and outdoor social gatherings can not exceed 25 people. For every other region of the province, indoor social gatherings can not exceed 50 people and outdoor social gatherings can not exceed 100 people. Indoor and outdoor gatherings can not be combined to form a larger gathering. You MUST maintain physical distancing at a social gathering.

A social circle means the group of 10 people or less who you interact with without physical distancing. Everyone living in the same household is in a social circle.

How many people can be in my circle/bubble?

Social circles in Ontario remain at a maximum of 10 people. Remember, those 10 people must include the people you live with and anyone in their social circles too.

You can only be a part of one social circle. It is essential that you stay true to your social circle and only come into contact with those people. Make sure everyone in your social circle knows they are in your social circle and agrees to only come in contact with the people in your circle.

If someone in your social circle feels sick, they must tell everyone in the social circle immediately. The sick person should self-isolate at home and refrain from coming into contact with anyone, including people in your social circle. If the sick person has symptoms of COVID-19, they should get tested. Everyone else in the social circle should monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19.

For guidance on how to create a safe social circle, read the Ontario government’s 5 steps for creating a safe social circle.

What am I allowed to do with the people in my circle/bubble?

You do not have to maintain physical distancing with the people in your social circle. You can hug and touch each other. You also do not have to wear a mask when you come into contact with the people in your social circle.

Even though you can expand your social circle, you should still maintain good hygiene like frequent hand washing, disinfecting surfaces regularly, and sneezing or coughing into your sleeve.

If someone in your social circle feels sick, they must tell everyone in the social circle immediately. The sick person should self-isolate at home and refrain from coming into contact with anyone, including people in your social circle. If the sick person has symptoms of COVID-19, they should get tested. Everyone else in the social circle should monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19.

How many people can attend a social gathering? Do we have to maintain physical distancing?

For regions in Stage 2, social gatherings in can increase to 10 people. For regions in Stage 3, indoor social gatherings can increase to a maximum of 50 people and outdoor social gatherings can increase to a maximum of 100 people. Indoor gathering limits apply to events that are partially or fully indoors. Indoor and outdoor social gatherings can not be combined to create a larger gathering.

Thinking of attending a social gathering? Check what stage your region is in.

If you attend a social gathering you MUST maintain physical distancing. If you can not maintain physical distancing, do not attend a social gathering. If you feel sick, do not attend a social gathering.

Unlike social circles that only include the same close contacts, you can attend social gatherings with different groups of people. Gatherings are limited by the number of people, not the number of social circles. For example, if your region is in Stage 2, you can gather with 9 other people, not 9 other social circles.

In-person religious services resumed in Ontario on June 12th. Everyone attending a religious service must maintain physical distancing. The service space and the washrooms must be disinfected frequently and according to local public health directions.

For regions in Stage 2, indoor religious services must ensure the room hosting the religious service does not exceed 30% capacity and outdoor religious services can host up to 50 people. For regions in Stage 3, indoor religious services must ensure the room hosting the religious service does not exceed 30% capacity and outdoor religious services can increase to a maximum of 100 people.

If you are attending a religious service, remember to practice physical distancing, wear a mask and wash you hands often. Do not attend a religious service if you are sick.

If you are concerned about your safety at a religious service, you can contact your religious organization to find out what preventative measures they’ve put in place. If you don’t feel safe attending a religious service, stay home and seek alternative ways to participate.

Can I attend a funeral?

As long as you are well, yes. Funerals are subject to the same restrictions as other religious services.

If you are attending a funeral, remember to practice physical distancing, wear a mask and wash you hands often. Do not attend a funeral if you are sick.

Can I attend a wedding?

As long as you are well, yes. Weddings are subject to the same restrictions as other religious services.

If you are attending a wedding, remember to practice physical distancing, wear a mask and wash you hands often. Do not attend a wedding if you are sick.

Depending on where you live, you may be required to wear a mask or face covering to enter public spaces. In Toronto, masks are mandatory in indoor public spaces. Similar bylaws are in place in Peel, Kingston, Durham, Ottawa, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, Simcoe-Muskoka, Algoma, Grey-Bruce and Hamilton. Check with your municipal government to find out what the mask requirements are in your region.

Wearing a mask is one of the key recommendations in the OMA’s public health pillars for a safe reopening. The Chief Medical Officer of Health has recommended that individuals wear a non-medical face covering when physical distancing is not possible.

Unsure when to wear a mask or what type of mask you should wear? Watch Emergency Physician Dr. Lisa Salamon explain what type of mask to wear and when to wear it.

Masks protect those around you and help reduce the spread of viruses like COVID-19 by blocking infected droplets coming from your nose and mouth. Masks or face coverings should not be worn by people under the age of 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove their mask without assistance.

Limiting interactions with others, physical distancing and frequent hand-washing continue to be the most effective means of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

When you come into contact with others who are not in your social circle, practice physical distancing. Be sure to KEEP AT LEAST 2 METRES OR 6 FEET OF DISTANCE from others and clean your hands often.

There is a limited supply of facemasks for frontline health-care workers. Surgical and N95 masks should be saved for medical professionals so that they can stay healthy and care for ill patients.

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

What if I am sick with symptoms of COVID-19, should I wear a facemask?

If you are showing any symptoms you must STAY HOME and self-isolate away from other people.

What is the medical evidence on wearing facemasks?

If you have symptoms of a viral illness, then wearing a mask or face covering can help reduce the risk of infecting others. This is because a mask reduces the spread of infected droplets coming from your nose and mouth.

And remember, wearing a mask does not mean you can come within 6 feet of other people or gather in groups. All physical distancing rules still apply.


How do I wear a face covering or homemade mask safely?

Watch Dr. Lisa Salamon explain and demonstrate how to wear a facemask safely.

Non-medical masks or face coverings should be made of at least two layers of tightly woven material, be large enough to cover the nose and mouth completely, fit securely, and keep their shape after washing.

You should wash your hands before you put a face covering on and after you take it off. Remember the outside of the mask or covering is considered "dirty". Do not adjust your face covering or touch it in any way while wearing it. Do not share your mask. After you take it off, wash it in hot water or throw it out.

How do I clean my face covering?

Watch Dr. Lisa Salamon explain how to safely wash and re-use face coverings.

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

Contact tracing is the third pillar of the OMA white paper, Reopening Ontario to a “New Normal”: Five Public Health Pillars for a Safe Return. Identifying people who are infected with the virus and people they might have infected, is essential for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the community and keeping everyone safe.

Why should I keep track of my contacts?

Keeping track of your contacts can help keep your friends, your family, and anyone else you interact with as safe as possible. If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, a public health worker will contact you and ask you where you’ve been, who you have had prolonged contact with, and when that contact was. It can be hard to remember such details, especially when you may be feeling unwell or stressed.

You can help prepare for this by keeping track of your prolonged contacts.

Your list of contacts might not include every detail and that’s OK.

Any information you can keep will help if you get sick, and it will help to protect those around you.

Contact tracing is something simple we can all do to keep ourselves and other safe. The OMA has put together a Contact Tracing Fact Sheet with more information on how you can help stop the spread of COVID-19.

What does prolonged contact mean?

Prolonged contact means you interacted with someone within two metres for 15 minutes or more.

What interactions should I record?

You should record WHERE you went, WHEN you went there, and WHO you interacted with for more than 15 minutes. It’s also helpful to note if you or the other person were wearing masks, and if you were indoors or outdoors.

You should also note anyone you interacted with that you may have exposed to infectious body fluids. For example, someone you coughed on, sneezed on or kissed.

How should I keep track of prolonged contacts?

Tracking your contacts is simple. You should use whatever method works best for you. Consider keeping notes on your phone, recording voice notes on your phone, taking pictures of where you went, keeping a diary or journal or just writing notes on a piece of paper.

You can DOWNLOAD the OMA contact tracing template here.

I’m getting tested for COVID-19. Is there any information I should be tracking in case I test positive?

Getting tested is just the start of protecting yourself and others from exposure to COVID-19. If you test positive, the information you have about your symptoms and your contacts can help public health identify who else needs to be tested. While you wait for your test results, you can DOWNLOAD the COVID-19 Activity Log to help you recall your symptoms and contacts.

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

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

DOWNLOAD the OMA Personal Activity Log to help you recall your activities so you don’t forget any details when you talk to your public health department.

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

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

Should I write down everyone I pass on the street?

No. The most important contacts to note are the prolonged contacts, and anyone that you may have exposed to body fluids. You can also note any additional interactions you think are important. For example, someone you interact with often but not for a prolonged period of time, such as a building concierge.

Is there a contact tracing app in Ontario?

Yes. As of July 31st, all Ontarians are able to download the new Health Canada COVID Alert Contact Notification app (Canada COVID-19). While the app is not mandatory, the more people that download the app, the more effective it will be.

The app is designed to help you stay informed about COVID-19 and determine what actions and next steps you should take. Recommendations are personalized and based on your personal risk factors. You will receive updates with news and alerts from Canada’s Ministry of Health. Recommendations and content are automatically updated based on the latest guidelines related to COVID-19.

How does the COVID Alert Contact Notification App work?

When someone tests positive for COVID-19, their local public health authority will provide them with a one-time key to enter in the app. A notice will then be sent to every device that has been within two (2) metres for at least 15 minutes of the person who has tested positive over the last 14 days. Those that receive a notification will also receive instructions on what to do next.

*Notification will only occur on phones where the app has been downloaded.

Are there any privacy concerns I should be worried about?

While you should always be mindful of the information you share, the government has been working with the federal privacy commissioner to address any privacy concerns.

The app utilizes bluetooth technology to exchange signals with nearby phones. Users will only be asked to provide their age, postal code, and device location. This information will be combined with all user data and used to inform the provincial COVID-19 response, and to allow you to receive location-based alerts.

The app follows industry best practices for data security and privacy. Data provided is always encrypted and is stored in Canada.

CLICK HERE to download the COVID Alert Contact Notification App.

Advice from an expert

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

Listen Now

Doctors across the province are implementing new protocals to keep you safe.

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

You should also protect yourself and others by wearing a cloth mask or face covering.

YES. Anyone can catch COVID-19.

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

Dr. Teresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, says people of all ages, should practice physical distancing. Many young people who’ve contracted COVID-19 experience mild symptoms and can unknowingly spread the virus if they continue interacting with others

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

We urge everyone to continue doing what they can to keep themselves and others safe. Wear masks, wash hands often and practice physical distancing.

What advice does the OMA have for employers for reopening the workplace?

We strongly recommend that employers regularly clean and disinfect common high-traffic areas, and shared surfaces and items.

Staff should have access to handwashing facilities and/or hand sanitizers, as well as the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) required.

Physical distancing should be enabled as much as possible, and employers should encourage employees to continue to work from home if they are able.

Employers should also understand that employees will need to self-isolate if they become sick.

If I go back to work and experience symptoms, what should I do?

You should not be at work if you are ill. Let your Human Resources department or manager know, according to your workplace’s policy, and leave work. Call your doctor’s office or Telehealth for further instructions.

Coworkers often share or touch common office items, such as coffee machines, printers, computers and phones. How should I protect myself?

Avoid shared items where possible. Bring your own coffee, try not to share computers or phones, employers should help to facilitate this.

If you have to touch or use items that others are also using, you should disinfect the surface/item and wash or sanitize your hands before and after use.

Employers are strongly encouraged to regularly disinfect commonly touched surfaces/items.

And as always, keep your distance.

What if I have to take public transit to get to work?

If you can work from home you should continue to do so.

We recommend that employers encourage people to use their own means of transportation where possible and reserve public transit for those without other options.

The OMA recommends wearing a mask in public, washing your hands, or using hand sanitizer before and after getting on transit, and keeping your distance as much as possible from other passengers. Cough or sneeze into your elbow and do not touch your face.

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

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

Advance Care planning involves the following:

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

For more information on advance care planning please visit Speak Up Ontario and consult our guide.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Plan Well Guide

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

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

Doctors and specialists are able to deliver care through virtual means – by phone or video. If you need health care – including non-COVID care, please call your doctor’s office.

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

Patients can access virtual care two main ways:

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

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

Can I still see a doctor if I am uninsured?

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

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, or runny nose. 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)

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.

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 you be asking your 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.

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.

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

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.)

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

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

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

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

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