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This Version Posted: May 29, 2020

What is COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. They can cause diseases 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. This novel coronavirus is now called 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

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 number of local positive cases of COVID-19 in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes. Visit the Ministry of Health website for daily 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

Learn more about COVID-19 transmission in this video from the World Health Organization.


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.

If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has it, use the Ministry of Health self-assessment tool to help determine if you need to seek further care. If you have questions after taking the self-assessment tool, call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5020. You can also learn about local COVID-19 Assessment Centres.

If you start to feel unwell, you should go home, self-isolate and do the online self assessment. 

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 distancing, avoid gatherings of more than five people, regularly 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. That’s especially important for those most at risk from COVID-19, including:

  • Anyone aged 65 and over. NOTE: Given the greater risk from COVID-19, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health is strongly recommending individuals 70 years of age and older self-isolate. This means only leaving home or seeing other people for essential reasons. Where possible, you should seek services over the phone or internet or ask for help from friends, family or neighbours with essential errands.
  • People with compromised immune systems or underlying medical conditions. They are also strongly recommended to self-isolate.
  • Travellers returning to Canada. Please be aware the Public Health Agency of Canada is advising that Canadians avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice. This includes cruise ships. There are also mandatory quarantine/self-isolating measures in place for all returning travellers

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 COVID19 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. For tips on making the most of food during COVID-19 read our article here.


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.


In what COVID-19 situations should I be calling the Health Unit?

Read Response Here.


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.


How do I care for someone with COVID-19?

If you care for someone with COVID-19, it’s essential to protect and monitor your health. Be sure to: wash hands frequently, wear masks and gloves (and properly dispose of them after use), limit the number of visitors to your house, do not share household items, regularly clean your home with household cleaners (especially commonly-touched surfaces), and wash laundry thoroughly. For more tips on caring for someone in self-isolation, click 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?

Check out Ontario’s new online portal to quickly access your COVID-19 lab test results on your computer or mobile device. 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. This is essential to slow the spread of COVID-19. Always keep a minimum distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from other people outside of your immediate family. 
  • Stay home except for essential reasons, such as: accessing health care services, going out to get groceries or medication, and walking pets when required. If you do go out, be sure to practise physical distancing!
  • 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.
  • Individuals 70 years of age and those with compromised immune systems are strongly urged to self-isolate. This means only leaving home or seeing other people for essential reasons. Where possible, you should seek services over the phone or internet or ask for help from friends, family or neighbours with essential errands.
  • 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. 
  • Do NOT visit people in hospitals or long-term care homes. Note: Currently, many care facilities have visitor restrictions and screening procedures in place 
  • Watch these video resources on how your organization/workplace can prepare for COVID-19. These print resources may also be useful.
  • Avoid large gatherings of more than five people Note: As of now, Ontario is banning groups of five or more people. The only exceptions are families with more than five people and child care centres supporting frontline health care workers and first responders (so long as each centre does not exceed 50 people). Funerals are permitted, but only with up to 10 people at a time.
  • Be prepared by planning ahead, but do so within reason and recognizing that everyone is in this together.

What should I do if I’m an older adult or person with chronic health conditions who is at higher risk of COVID-19?

Read Response Here.


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 stay at least two metres away from other people. You should NOT shake hands, hug or kiss. Follow these additional physical distancing tips to limit the number of people with whom you come in contact.


I know people who are self-isolating and unable to leave their home. Is there any way I can help them?

Read Response Here.


Should I wear a mask?

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

It’s essential to save medical masks (like surgical and N-95 varieties) for health care providers and those providing direct care to someone with COVID-19. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or caring for someone who has the virus, wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of the infection to others. The mask acts as a barrier and helps stop the tiny droplets from spreading around you when you cough or sneeze.

Your health provider may also recommend you wear a mask while you are seeking or waiting for care.

When wearing a mask, follow this Public Health Ontario fact sheet on how to properly wear and throw away masks.

When it comes to homemade cloth masks, Health Canada is cautioning people on their use. These types of masks are NOT medical devices, are not regulated and come with a number of limitations. There is no evidence these masks block particles, and may in fact encourage you to touch your face more as you try to adjust the mask. Read further on the use of homemade masks here.


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.


What extra precautions should I take if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding during COVID-19?

Read Response Here.


How can I cope with fears of COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a new virus that is getting lots of attention and affecting the way we live. The situation can seem overwhelming, especially if you have children. In fact, Ontario’s health care system is responding to COVID-19. When we all work together to take preventive measures like handwashing, physical distancing and self-isolation, we can also reduce the spread of COVID-19.

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.

Consider if you need to go out at all. If you must and 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.
  • 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?

NOTE: The Ontario government has declared a State of Emergency to control the spread of COVID-19. A number of restrictions and measures are included in this declaration, such as:

  • A ban on all public events of more than five people, including parades, events and worship services. Note: As of now, Ontario is banning groups of five or more people, with the only exceptions being families with more than five people and child care centres supporting frontline health care workers and first responders (so long as each centre does not exceed 50 people). Funerals are permitted, but only with up to 10 people at a time.
  • The closure of all private schools, licensed daycares, rec centres/public libraries, bars and restaurants (except those that provide takeout food/delivery), theatres and concert venues.

These restrictions are in place until mid-May.

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


How can tenants in a multi-unit building be protected from COVID-19?

Read Response Here.


If I’m staying home due to COVID-19, what activities can I be doing outside with my family?

Read Response Here.


How do I talk to my children about COVID-19?

Read Response Here.


Where do I go if I need emergency dental care during COVID-19?

Read Response Here.


What can I do if tenants/residents in my multi-unit dwelling start to show COVID-19 symptoms?

Read Response Here.


During COVID-19, how can I stay safe if I currently use substances or other drugs?

Read Response Here.


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.


I’m at home and currently off work without pay due to COVID-19. Are there any income support programs available to help me through this difficult time?

Read Response Here.


Where can I report complaints about non-essential workplaces/services being open?

Read Response Here.


Read Response Here.


Where can I volunteer to help support COVID-19 response?

Read Response Here.


With restrictions on large gatherings due to COVID-19, what advice does the Health Unit have for places of worship?

Read Response Here.


What resources are available to local food banks and similar services that support vulnerable people in the area?

Read Response Here.


During COVID-19, how can people stay safe if they currently use substances or other drugs?

Read Response Here.


How can I get care for my family pet during COVID-19? Is there a risk my dog or cat can become infected or spread the coronavirus?

Read Response Here.


What help is available for people dealing with domestic violence, especially if they’re stuck at home during COVID-19?

Read Response Here.


I have shared custody of my child with a former partner. Where can I find advice on co-parenting during COVID-19?

Read Response Here.


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

Read Response Here.


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

Read Response Here.