If you have symptoms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, the first step is to contact your health-care provider or local public health agency by email or telephone.
They’ll be able to tell you if you’re eligible for testing in your area. Most provinces and territories are restricting testing to those who have been exposed to people who have a confirmed or presumptive case, or have returned from travelling to an affected area.
Do not show up unannounced at a clinic or hospital. However, if you have a sharp turn in your condition, including shortness of breath, call 911 or your local emergency number.
The symptoms for adults include:
- Difficulty breathing.
- Pneumonia in both lungs (diagnosed through a chest X-ray).
But for children the illness can manifest differently, with the following symptoms:
- Runny nose.
- Sore throat.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says you must call your health-care provider or the clinic you plan to attend ahead of time to let them know you have a respiratory illness. But again, if your condition changes suddenly, call 911 or your local emergency number.
When you first arrive at an urgent care centre, describe your symptoms, travel history and any contacts with ill people so appropriate precautions can be taken.
Here’s what to do based on your province or territory.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCBC) says to call your health-care provider or 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319), the province’s new dedicated coronavirus hotline, if you believe you have symptoms and have been in contact with someone who is known to have the illness. The same applies if you have symptoms and have returned from — or been in contact with someone who has returned from — an area with widespread community transmission of the illness. The BCCDC says: “If you have no symptoms, mild symptoms or you are a returning traveller self-isolating at home, you do not require a test.” You can also use B.C.’s new online assessment tool.
The BCCDC says its supply of swabs used to test for the coronavirus has become “critically limited.” Health Minister Adrian Dix said Tuesday testing is being further prioritized for health-care workers and at clusters of infection, for example, while health authorities search for more supplies.
You can find B.C.’s latest coronavirus updates here.
Alberta Health Services has an online self-assessment tool that you can use to determine if you have symptoms of COVID-19. Testing is currently focused on individuals who have developed symptoms within 14 days of returning from travel outside Canada, or who have had contact with someone diagnosed with the illness. The province “strongly requests” that Albertans who have returned to Canada after March 12 self-isolate for 14 days. Unless your situation is critical and requires a call to 911, Albertans are advised to call Health Link at 811 before visiting a physician, hospital or other health-care facility. There are two drive-through testing centres now open, in Calgary and Edmonton, but these also require a referral from Health Link.
Saskatchewan’s HealthLine 811 has been overwhelmed and experiencing “technical difficulties.” But the province is in the middle of transferring to a new phone infrastructure, with 500 new lines to increase capacity, said Derek Miller, with the Saskatchewan Health Authority. Meanwhile, the province launched an online assessment tool to help people assess whether they need medical attention and testing.
Dedicated testing facilities have been set up in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert, but they’re not open to walk-in patients. Those who fit the criteria of potential exposure, exhibit mild symptoms and suspect they have COVID-19, can obtain a referral by contacting 811, their family physician, or their local Public Health Communicable Disease Control office.
You can find Saskatchewan’s latest coronavirus updates here.
In Manitoba, you can call Health Links at 1-888-315-9257 for COVID-19 information. Wait times have been long but a new self-assessment tool is online now. Four dedicated testing sites have opened in Winnipeg and one in Thompson, with sites in Flin Flon and The Pas to follow by the end of Tuesday. The province’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, has said that only patients with symptoms and who have returned from abroad — or have been in contact with COVID-19-positive patients — should be tested.
Winnipeg police have also sent out a warning about a scam in which a person gets an email saying the recipient has been contaminated by the coronavirus. The email asks for credit card information in order to get a shipment of medication. Roussin said public health workers would never ask for financial information, either by email or phone.
You can find Manitoba’s latest coronavirus updates here.
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford declared a provincewide state of emergency on March 17. The province currently has the highest number of COVID-19 cases, and Dr. David Williams, chief medical officer of health, asks people who believe they’ve been exposed to someone with the illness to begin monitoring themselves for a period of 14 days. In addition to social distancing, this means tracking and logging temperature and any symptoms you experience.
Additionally, he asks all persons over 70 and all individuals who are immunocompromised to self-isolate for a period of 14 days, only leaving home for essential reasons and, where possible, getting help from others for critical errands.
The Ministry of Health asks people to contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000, call your primary care physician or visit a COVID-19 assessment centre only if they have symptoms and one of the following apply:
- They’ve travelled outside the country in the past 14 days.
- They’ve been in close contact with the illness.
- They’ve been in close contact with someone exhibiting the symptoms who has recently travelled outside of the country.
Ontarians are asked to review this self-assessment information before calling or coming to an assessment centre. Only if these criteria are met will residents be referred for a coronavirus test, regardless of travel history.
You can find Ontario’s latest coronavirus information here.
Quebec has set up a new information line for people who have symptoms of COVID-19, and asks people to call 1-877-644-4545 instead of 811. If you have returned from travelling and are experiencing cold and fever, the province asks you to call that number to set up an appointment for an assessment at one of 15 new coronavirus screening centres that will be open by the end of the week. Only visit an emergency room if you are having difficulty breathing.
The province on March 17 confirmed a COVID-19 patient took Montreal public transit while infected last week. The person travelled on the 106 bus and the metro on March 10, and details can be found here.
You can find Quebec’s latest coronavirus updates here.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador has one of the lowest caseloads of all the provinces. (The territories have no confirmed cases as of yet.) But those in the province who have returned from travelling and develop symptoms are asked to call Health Line 811 (also available at 1-888-709-2929) or use this online self-assessment tool.
You can find Newfoundland and Labrador’s latest COVID-19 updates here.
The last among the provinces to report its first presumptive case of COVID-19, Nova Scotia is not experiencing the level of spread seen in Ontario, Quebec and B.C. Still, Health Minister Randy Delorey said the province’s 811 line has been receiving calls from people who want to be tested even though they do not have symptoms. He reminded people to reserve that line for people who are showing symptoms of a fever above 38 C and a cough, and to fill out a questionnaire on the 811 website instead to see if it’s necessary to call.
Dr. Brendan Carr, CEO of the Nova Scotia Health Authority, said plans are in the works for all regions to establish COVID-19 assessment sites.
You can find Nova Scotia’s latest coronavirus updates here.
Prince Edward Island
If you’re in Prince Edward Island, you may have already discovered that the province’s 811 health line is experiencing higher than normal call volume. Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.’s chief public health officer, said March 17 that additional nurses and call takers are being added to help handle the volume.
However, the province asks that you call only if you’ve just returned from outside of Canada and have symptoms, including a cough, fever or difficulty breathing. You’ll receive screening over the phone and, if necessary, you’ll be directed to a clinic for testing.
You can find Prince Edward Island’s latest coronavirus updates here.
The province announced that it has set up new COVID-19 assessment centres in Moncton, Saint John, Miramichi and Fredericton. It expects to have additional centres open in Edmundston, Grand Falls, Campbellton, Bathurst and Tracadie-Sheila March 17, with plans to add a centre in Upper River Valley soon. Testing is only available by referral to those exhibiting mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 who follow a triage completed by Tele-Care 811. “If people feel that it’s a shortcut to go to these clinics directly, you will have undone our whole purpose,” said Dr. John Dornan, chief of staff for Horizon Health Network, which operates hospitals and clinics throughout the province, including many of the new assessment centres.
You can find New Brunswick’s latest coronavirus updates here.
Yukon does not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19, but the territory’s chief medical officer, Dr. Brendan Hanley, says the territory is “very likely” to see a case soon. He’s also telling people who have travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days to self-isolate, including those who have been to Alaska. If you develop symptoms within 14 days of returning to Yukon after travelling and live in Whitehorse, call Yukon Communicable Disease Control at 867-667-8323. Outside of Whitehorse, call your local health centre.
You can find Yukon’s latest coronavirus updates here.
Northwest Territories has no presumptive nor confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of March 17 and is only testing those who have travelled outside the territory in the past 14 days and who are exhibiting flu-like symptoms. The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority has increased physician phone appointments to make space at health-care facilities for those who need to be assessed in person.
The numbers to call about screening and testing are:
- Yellowknife: 867-767-9120.
- Inuvik: 867-490 –2225 or 867-777-7246.
- Fort Smith: 867-872-6219 or 867-872-6221.
- Hay River: 867-874-7201.
Other communities can access the numbers for their local health centres here.
You can find Northwest Territories latest coronavirus updates here.
Likewise, Nunavut doesn’t have any cases as of March 16. If you develop symptoms after travelling to a region with known cases of COVID-19, or after being in close contact with someone who has, you should stay home and advise your health-care professional or public health authority of your potential exposure before coming in.
You can find Nunavut’s latest coronavirus updates here.
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