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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.

On April 27, the Ontario government released a framework for reopening our province. The framework is based on public health guidance and outlines a three-stage approach for loosening emergency measures and reopening the economy.

As of May 4, the Ontario government is allowing certain seasonal businesses to reopen under strict safety guidelines.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Contact tracing is a process that is used to identify, educate and monitor individuals who have had close contact with someone who is infected with a virus. These individuals are at a higher risk of becoming infected and sharing the virus with others. Contact tracing can help the individuals understand their risk and limit further spread of the virus.

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.

The most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to STAY HOME and avoid contact with other people.

If you must go out, practice physical distancing. Be sure to KEEP YOUR DISTANCE (at least 2 metres or 6 feet) from others and clean your hands often. If using soap and water, for at least 20 seconds. If using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, use enough product to ensure at least 20 seconds of rubbing hands together.

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.

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection in the United States has recently recommended that people wear cloth face coverings if they must leave the house. This can help to prevent asymptomatic transmission of the virus (i.e. passing it on to others before you have symptoms)

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.

Wear a mask:

  • If you must leave your house to see a health care provider,
  • If you are within 2 metres of other people
  • When you are in the same room as other people
  • If you cannot wear a mask, the people who live with you should wear one while they are in the same room as you.

What is the medical evidence on wearing facemasks?

If you have symptoms of a viral illness, then wearing a facemask 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.

However, if you do have symptoms you must STAY HOME and self-isolate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection in the United States has recently recommended that people wear cloth face coverings if they must leave the house. This can help to prevent asymptomatic transmission of the virus.

What about homemade facemasks?

Regular fabric is less effective than a medical-grade facemask. But, depending on the materials, homemade masks can still filter out some particles.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States has recently recommended that people wear cloth face coverings if they must leave the house. This can help to prevent asymptomatic transmission of the virus.

The Public Health Agency of Canada notes that wearing a homemade mask has not been proven to protect the person wearing it. But, wearing one could protect those around you. The most important things to know are that homemade masks are not perfect, and they need to be used safely.

If you choose to wear a mask or face-covering, use one that is clean and fits your face snugly. Wash your hands before you put one on and after you take it off. Remember the outside of the mask is considered "dirty". Do not touch the mask or your face while wearing it. Do not share your mask. After you take it off, wash it in hot water or throw it out.

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.

I am my elderly mother's sole support. I visit her a few times a week. I am COVID-free, as is she. Should I wear a mask?

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection in the United States has recently recommended that people wear cloth face coverings if they must leave the house. This can help to prevent asymptomatic transmission of the virus.

The most effective prevention against COVID-19 is staying home, staying at least six-feet or two-metres apart and washing hands thoroughly with soap and water. When you visit your mother, make sure you wash your hands as soon as you enter her home and frequently while there, and keep a distance of at least 2 metres/6 feet between you and her.

If you have the virus, or think you might have it, because you have travelled or have symptoms, STAY HOME.

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 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.

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)

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 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

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.

  • 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.)

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:

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.

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.

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.)

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 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.