Coronavirus in Canada: How To Get Tested, What The Symptoms Are, Where To Get Help
As the coronavirus known as COVID-19 spreads in Canada, the sheer volume of information and misinformation about it can make it difficult to know exactly what is going on, and what to if you think you or someone near you could have the virus.
So Maclean’s has compiled information about the current situation in Canada, symptoms of COVID-19, who is most vulnerable to the virus, as well as self-isolation and notification details for each province and territory. We combed through the official coronavirus webpages of the federal, provincial and territorial governments, as well as of the World Health Organization (WHO), which published a preliminary report on the outbreak in China. Sources are noted throughout.
As each province and territory has its own health terminology—Telehealth Ontario vs. Health Link 811 in Alberta, for example—much of the wording is taken directly from their sites to avoid confusion.
An important note: this information is frequently revised and updated by authorities. This post, too, is being updated regularly, but we urge readers to click on the links, especially the official sites, for the latest.
Also, wash your hands with soap. Often.
To skip directly to information and instructions for your home province on this post, follow the applicable link below:
According to a World Health Organization report from the end of February on COVID-19 in China, symptoms in confirmed cases included:
- Fever (88%)
- Dry cough (68%)
- Fatigue (38%)
- Sputum production (33%)
- Shortness of breath (19%)
- Muscle or joint pain (15%)
- Sore throat (14%)
- Headache (14%)
- Chills (11%)
The WHO report on COVID-19 in China found that:
- 80% of patients experienced mild to moderate effects (fever, cough, maybe pneumonia—but not needing supplemental oxygen)
- 14% suffered severe symptoms (requiring supplemental oxygen, including via a ventilator)
- 1% were critical (respiratory failure, septic shock and/or organ dysfunction/failure)
Who is most vulnerable?
As of March 11, the Public Health Agency of Canada assessed the public health risk as LOW for the general population. But there is increased risk of more severe outcomes for those:
- Aged 65 and over
- With compromised immune systems
- With underlying medical conditions or chronic diseases including:
- heart, renal or chronic lung disease (Ont.)
Those warnings follow the findings of that February WHO report on COVID-19 in China. According to the research team, the age difference among those affected was stark: 21.9 per cent of those over 80 years died, while just 2.4 per cent of all reported cases were children aged 18 and under (only 0.2 percent of those became critically ill).
As well, while 1.4 percent of COVID-19 patients with no other underlying conditions died, those with other conditions experienced much higher death rates:
- cardiovascular disease (13.2%)
- diabetes (8.4%)
- hypertension (8.4%)
- chronic respiratory disease (8%)
- cancer (7.6%)
In more severe cases, public health authorities believe infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death (Sask). Yet, unlike the nature of influenza, pregnant women do not appear to be at a higher risk for the severe form of COVID-19, according to the WHO report.
If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms
Contact a care provider in your area to get tested (province-by-province contact information below). Staff in some jurisdictions, especially large cities, may direct you to special assessment centres set up for COVID-19 testing. There are some basic caveats to observe, though, before and after you get tested, as the B.C. site explains:
- If it becomes harder to breathe, you can’t drink anything or feel much worse than when you got tested, seek immediate medical care at an urgent-care clinic or emergency department. If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 911 or the local emergency number immediately.
- Call ahead before you get medical care. If leaving your home for care, call ahead and tell the clinic you are coming in and that you just had a COVID-19 test. By calling ahead, you help the clinic, hospital, lab, urgent care or doctor’s office prepare for your visit and stop the spread of germs. Remind each health care provider that is taking care of you that you are waiting for COVID-19 test results.
The health-care professionals will need to know: a) your symptoms b) where you have been travelling or living c) if you had direct contact with animals, for example, if you visited a live animal market d) if you had close contact with a sick person, especially if they had a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
How have Canadians exposed to COVID-19 been affected?
As of March 18 at 9:30 a.m., there were 569 cases so far in Canada: B.C. (186), Alberta (97), Saskatchewan (2), Manitoba (8), Ontario (189), Quebec (74), New Brunswick (2), Nova Scotia (1), Prince Edward Island (1) and repatriated travellers (9), per the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC):
- 8 people have died of COVID-19
- 12% of ill individuals were hospitalized
- 32% were 60 years old or over
- 74% were travellers and 11% were close contacts of those travellers
(The above statistics are based on detailed data of 211 cases)
Official site here.
Getting advice: The Public Health Agency of Canada has an information line about COVID-19 at 1-833-784-4397. It has interpretation services available in multiple languages.
Dr. Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer of Canada. recommends:
- Postpone or cancel all non-essential travel outside of Canada.
- practice social distancing
- avoid large events and crowded spaces with more than 50 people
- keep a distance of two arms-length from others
- if you must go out, avoid peak hours
- if needed or possible, work from home.
The Government of Canada is advising travellers arriving in Canada from any international destination, via airport or land port of entry, to self-isolate for 14 days after your return.
- Self-isolate: stay at home and avoid close contact with others, including those in their home, for a total of 14 days from the date they left Hubei province or Iran
- Contact the local public health unit within 24 hours of arriving in Canada
- Contact your provincial/territorial/local health authorities if you experience symptoms of COVID-19
Advice from provincial and territorial governments, and where to get information
Specific information regarding self-isolation and reporting varies by province, so here are the breakdowns, using the wording from their own websites. Please note that new information is causing their risk assessments to be re-evaluated.
Official site for HealthLink BC here and BC Centre for Disease Control here.
COVID-19 self-assessment tool here
Getting help: a) The province has created a dedicated phone service to provide British Columbians non-medical information about COVID-19. This includes the latest information on travel recommendations and social distancing, as well as access to support and resources from the provincial and federal governments. British Columbians can reach service representatives seven days a week, from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., by calling 1 888 COVID19. Information is available in more than 110 languages. b) contact your primary care provider, local public health office, or call 811 anytime to talk to a nurse at HealthLinkBC.
On Tuesday, March 17, the provincial health officer declared a public health emergency.
- The B.C. government is suspending K-12 learning in all classrooms. A decision on when and how to return will be made in partnership with school districts and independent schools.
- BC Ferries will allow customers to remain in their vehicles on the enclosed car deck.
- Effective immediately, businesses with liquor primary licences, such as bars, pubs and nightclubs, must close as they are unable to adequately meet the requirements of social distancing.
- Restaurants and cafes that cannot maintain social distancing of one to two metres between patrons will need to move to take-out and delivery models.
- B.C. is prohibiting all public gatherings of more than 50 people. This includes indoor and outdoor sporting events, conferences, meetings, religious gatherings and other similar events.
- The government is restricting visitors in long-term care to essential visits only. Essential visits include compassionate visits for end-of-life care and visits that support care plans for residents based on resident and family needs. For example: families who routinely visit to provide assistance with feeding or mobility.
- Also, on the recommendation of the provincial health officer, the province has ordered all casinos to close until further notice to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
- Authorities are asking employers to excuse staff for sick leave without requiring a doctor’s note, if their employees are ill or required to self-isolate.
If you start having symptoms of COVID-19, you need to begin self-isolation:
- Isolate yourself from others as quickly as possible
- Call your health care professional or contact HealthLinkBC (8-1-1)
- Describe your symptoms and travel history. They will provide advice on what you should do.
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