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This Version Posted: August 5, 2020

What is COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). A novel coronavirus is a new strain not seen before in humans. The new novel coronavirus is known as COVID-19.


Learn About COVID-19
If You Feel Sick
Protect Yourself From COVID-19
Stay Safe in Your Home
Stay Safe at Your Work
Stay Safe in Your Community
Mask Use in Commercial Establishments

Where does the virus come from?

The novel coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. On January 7, 2020, China confirmed COVID-19. The first presumptive case of this infection in Ontario was identified on January 25, 2020.


How many COVID-19 cases are there locally?

Click here for the latest COVID-19 data in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes. Visit the Ministry of Health website for updates on the number of coronavirus cases in Ontario. 

Please note: To protect privacy, the Health Unit is only reporting the county in which a person confirmed to have COVID-19 lives. Health Unit staff do case and contact management, and will contact others who may have been in close contact to a case. Given that COVID-19 is spreading in all local communities, it’s important for everyone to do their part to slow the spread of illness. 


How does COVID-19 spread?

Coronaviruses are spread mainly from person to person through close contact such as in a household, workplace or health care setting. 

Human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:

  • respiratory droplets that are spread when you cough or sneeze
  • close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of COVID-19 range from mild to severe. You may not know you have symptoms of COVID-19 because they are similar to a cold, flu or other conditions.

Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19. Common symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Fever (temperature of 37.8 C or higher)
  • New or worsening cough
  • Shortness of breath

Other symptoms of COVID-19 can include:

  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Smell/tasting disorder
  • Nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain
  • Runny nose or nasal congestion

In certain cases, complications from COVID-19 can include serious conditions like pneumonia or kidney failure, and sometimes death.

Less common symptoms of COVID-19, especially in children, older persons and people living with a developmental disability, can include: unexplained fatigue or malaise, delirium (altered mental status and inattention), falls, acute functional decline, worsening of chronic conditions, chills, headaches, croup, pinkeye (conjunctivitis), decreased blood pressure, tachycardia (heart rate over 100 beats per minute), hypoxia (below-normal oxygen level in your blood), lethargy, poor feeding and multi-system inflammatory vasculitis in children.

Ontario has expanded its guidance for COVID-19 testing. If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, are concerned you may have been exposed to the virus, or are an essential worker, call your nearest COVID-19 Assessment Centre to get tested.

If you start to feel unwell, you should go home and self-isolate. Use the Ministry of Health self-assessment tool to help determine if you need to seek further care or call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5020. 

If your symptoms are worsening or you are having a medical emergency (for example, problems breathing, chest pain, fainting, confusion, lips turning blue/grey), call 9-1-1.


When it comes to COVID-19, what does ‘asymptomatic’ mean? And does it matter? 

Asymptomatic is a term to describe people who may have been exposed to, or have, COVID-19, but do not have any symptoms. 

Most often, COVID-19 is spread by people with symptoms. However, the virus can also be spread by individuals who have COVID-19 but are asymptomatic. Because they do not show any obvious signs of the virus, these individuals may be unaware they have COVID-19 and can infect others without knowing it.  

What does this mean? COVID-19 symptoms can take an average of five days to appear, be very mild to severe and differ depending on the person. That’s why it is critical to protect against the spread of COVID-19. 

Be sure to practise physical distancingregularly wash hands with soap and water, follow respiratory etiquette, and do proper cleaning and disinfecting of common surfaces

If you’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or you begin to feel unwell, self-isolate immediately and use Ontario’s COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to see what additional care you need. Stay home and stay informed to stop the spread! 


What is the risk of getting sick and who is most vulnerable?

COVID-19 is a serious health threat. Given the growing number of cases locally and in Canada, the risk is high and it’s essential to take steps to slow the spread. Generally anyone can be susceptible to COVID-19. In some cases, some people may be at higher risk from the virus and should take additional precautions. These include:


Is there a treatment or vaccine for COVID-19?

For now, there is no specific treatments for COVID-19. Most people with common coronavirus illness will recover on their own. Your health care provider may recommend steps you can take to relieve symptoms. In terms of a vaccine, none is currently available although multiple efforts are underway globally to develop one.


Will the flu shot protect me from COVID-19?

No, the viruses are very different and distinct. The annual flu shot will not provide any protection against COVID-19 (though it is highly recommended to prevent influenza, a serious infectious disease in its own right).


How long does the COVID-19 virus live on surfaces?

According to the World Health Organization, it’s uncertain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest coronaviruses can live on surfaces from a few hours up to several days. Often, it’s based on conditions like type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment.

Current evidence shows the main way COVID-19 spreads is through person-to-person direct contact and respiratory droplets that have the potential to be propelled for up to two metres. According to Public Health Ontario, there are no reports of COVID-19 being spread through handling groceries or similar items, or of foodborne related illnesses.

If you think a surface may be infected with the COVID-19 virus, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.


Due to COVID-19, is it safe to eat unpackaged fruit and vegetables? If so, how do I safely wash and eat these foods?

The rules for washing unpackaged fruit and vegetables are the same, even with COVID-19. That means, washing hands with soap and water before handling any food… then thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables under cold running water. To be extra cautious, consider washing your hands with soap and water after you handle/wash unpackaged fruit and vegetables too.


What is the Health Unit’s role in responding to COVID-19?

The local Health Unit is following the lead of the Ontario Ministry of Health, Public Health Ontario, and the Public Health Agency of Canada in responding to COVID-19. HKPR is working with local hospitals who have put measures in place to screen individuals who are suspected of having COVID-19. When suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 are identified in this area, the Health Unit works with the Ministry, Public Health Ontario Laboratory, and local hospitals in the management of the case and any contacts.


What should I do if I get sick, or think I have symptoms of COVID-19, or been in contact with someone who does?

Anyone who begins to feel unwell with these symptoms MUST go home and self-isolate immediately.  You should also use the Ministry of Health self-assessment tool to help determine if you need to seek further care. 


When do I need to self-isolate/stay at home?

Anyone who begins to feel unwell with these symptoms MUST go home and self-isolate immediately. You should use the Ministry of Health self-assessment tool to help determine if you need to seek further care. You can also contact Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000 or the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5020 for further guidance. 

There are also mandatory quarantine/self-isolation requirements for travellers returning to Canada.


How do I self-isolate?

Read Response Here.


Can I access COVID-19 assessment centres? Where are they located in the area?

Read Response Here.


What can I do if I’ve completed 14 days of self-isolation without showing symptoms?

Read Response Here.


I’ve been tested for COVID-19, so where can I get results?

You can go online to the Ontario government website to quickly access your test results. You’ll need to provide your health card number, name, date of birth and postal code to confirm your identity. If you’re experiencing problems with the online portal or do not have Internet access, call toll-free at 1-866-250-1554.


How can I protect myself?

Follow these steps to protect yourself and prevent the spread of COVID-19: 

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth unless you have just washed your hands.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands. 
  • If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve or arm. 
  • Practise physical distancing by avoiding close contact with others outside your household or social circle. This means keeping a minimum distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from others. 
  • When going out in the community, keep COVID-19 precautions in mind at all times.
  • Wear a non-medical mask or face covering inside public places, as directed by the Health Unit.
  • Stay home if you or a family member are ill. This is essential to prevent the spread of illness. This poster can give you additional information on how to help your family stay healthy.
  • If you are an older adult or someone with a compromised immune system, you may be more susceptible to COVID-19. Take extra precautions to protect yourself from the virus.
  • If you are ill and must visit a hospital emergency department, clinic or healthcare provider, call ahead or tell them right away when you arrive that you have a respiratory illness and wear a mask while waiting to be seen. 
  • If visiting people in hospitals or long-term care homes, check first with the facility to see what guidelines are in place. Be sure to follow instructions as directed.
  • Watch these video resources on how your organization/workplace can prepare for COVID-19. These print resources may also be useful.
  • Be prepared by planning ahead, but do so within reason and recognizing that everyone is in this together.

What if I have just returned to Canada after travelling outside the country?

Read Response Here.


What is the best way to wash my hands?

Washing your hands properly and regularly can remove the germs that make us sick. We need to wash our hands many times through the day: before eating meals/snacks, before and after preparing food, after going to the washroom, after touching an animal, and after handling garbage. Wash your hands with clean, running water and soap. If soap and water is not available, or our hands aren’t visibly dirty, you can use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.


What is physical distancing?

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, you MUST practise physical distancing by staying at least 2 metres (6 feet) from others. The only exceptions are if people are within your household or social circle.


Should I wear a non-medical mask or face covering?

Face masks have become the new normal during COVID-19. It’s important to know when and where to wear a mask properly.

As of July 13, the Health Unit is directing that non-medical masks or face coverings be used in all commercial establishments in City of Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland County and Haliburton County. For complete details on mask use directive, including who is exempt, click here.

Face coverings will not protect you from getting COVID-19. However when worn properly, non-medical masks can help to cover your mouth and nose to prevent your respiratory droplets from contaminating other people or landing on common surfaces.

When wearing a cloth mask/face covering, follow this Public Health Ontario fact sheet on how to properly wear and throw away masks. You can also watch this Health Unit video for further guidance on properly using/wearing cloth masks.

Be sure to save medical masks (like surgical and N-95 varieties) for health care providers and those providing direct care to someone with COVID-19.


Should I wear rubber gloves outdoors to reduce my risk of COVID-19?

Wearing rubber gloves out in public does NOT reduce your risk of COVID-19. Regular handwashing with soap/water and not touching your face offer more protection. Even if you wear gloves, you can still pick up COVID-19 if you touch your face with the dirty gloves, and this could then spread the contamination and infect you.

The fact is people don’t need to wear gloves unless they are providing direct care to someone infected with COVID-19.


How should I throw out disposable gloves, given the current COVID-19 situation?

Safely disposing of used gloves anytime is important to reduce the risk of illness, so casually tossing them aside when you’re done with them is not advised. When removing the gloves, it’s essential to avoid contamination of your hands and arms and clothing (etc.). Public Health Ontario offers a five-step process for safely taking off gloves  and encourages you to properly wash your hands afterwards.

Used gloves should be disposed of in a proper garbage can for safe disposal. Never stuff used gloves into your pocket or purse. Gloves should NEVER be re-used.


How can I cope with fears of COVID-19?

COVID-19 is affecting people in many ways. The situation can seem overwhelming, especially if you have children. Taking care of yourself – and your mental health – is even more important now. Click here for more resources.

Another way to fight COVID-19 fear is with facts. Check credible websites like the Ontario government, Public Health Agency of Canada and World Health Organization.


Should I use public transit given the current COVID-19 situation?

If you are sick, do not ride public transit. Instead self-isolate at home, do not go out, and use the Ontario government’s COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to see what further care you may need.

If you need public transit to get to your destination, consider these tips:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after using any kind of public transportation.
  • Practise physical distancing. Aim to ride transit during off-peak hours to avoid crowds; avoid close contact with other passengers; and maintain a 2-metre distance apart.
  • Wear a non-medical mask or face covering.
  • If you use a taxi or rideshare service, sit in the back and open a window for air circulation.

Please remember that public transit agencies have implemented enhanced cleaning measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.


Is it safe to open mail and other packages?

There is no known risk of COVID-19 entering Canada on parcels or packages coming from affected regions. Currently there is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods. 


What if I’m attending, or my group is organizing, an event/meeting with a large gathering of people?

Remember that events attended by a large number of people who will be in close contact can lead to the spread of respiratory illness. Given the current COVID-19 situation, please read our large gatherings page to make a fully informed decision


What is physical distancing? And how can I practise this at work?

Read Response Here.


What are my rights as a worker during COVID-19?

Read Response Here.


What supports/resources are available to help workplaces fight COVID-19?

Watch these video resources on how your organization/workplace can prepare for COVID-19. These print resources may also be useful.


What is the Health Unit’s advice on wearing masks, especially the homemade (cloth) variety?

The Health Unit is instructing that non-medical masks and face coverings need to be worn inside public places. Click here for complete details. For information on the difference between medical and non-medical masks, click here.


Many temporary foreign workers have arrived to help at local farms for the current growing season. What is the Health Unit doing to protect the health of local residents and these workers?

Read Response Here.