What should you do if you think you have COVID-19?
TORONTO -- As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases grows in Ontario, many have been left wondering what to do if they think they have the virus.
Health officials say the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those with a flu or a respiratory illness and include fever, cough, muscle aches and shortness of breath. If you experience these symptoms, here's what health experts say you should do:
Check frequently asked questions online
Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer of Health said that many people who call their local health units have questions that can be answered by going to their website.
“I would encourage people if possible to look through the information we have. Frequently asked questions are being updated on the website and many people have similar questionss,” Dr. Eileen de Villa said.
Toronto Public Health’s website shares symptoms of the virus, provides details about when to self-isolate and offers tips to residents looking to travel, among other things.
The Ontario government has also created an online assessment tool to help people determine if their symptoms match that of COVID-19. The interactive tool takes users through a series of questions and then provides advice on what to do next.
"This easy-to-use tool, developed with guidance from Dr. Williams, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, is a great first step in that process," Ontario Minister of Health Christine Elliott said in a statement. "By answering a few questions, Ontarians will be able to make informed choices about what to do, while the province collects real-time data to enhance our ongoing response."
Self-isolate and contact local health unit
Health officials say that if you experience symptoms and believe you may be at risk of having contracted the virus, you should self-isolate and contact your local public health unit.
Toronto Public Health can be reached at 416-338-7600. The phone line is open from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, and is available between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekends.
Before calling the hotline, it’s important to reflect on where you’ve been and who you came into contact with.
Here is a list of Ontario’s local public health units.
Telehealth Ontario is a free provincial service that will connect you with a registered nurse, who will be able to review your condition over the phone and provide advice. The phone line - 1-866-797-0000 - is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you can’t get through to telehealth, officials suggest contacting your family doctor or a walk-in clinic, who will be able to ask you questions over the phone to determine if you are at risk.
The Public Health Agency of Canada said that anyone concerned they may have COVID-19 should speak with a healthcare professional as soon as they begin to develop symptoms.
"The sooner you consult your health-care provider, the better your chances are for recovery," the agency said on its website.
Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health said that she has heard reports of long wait times at telehealth and called the situation “unacceptable.”
“We are putting resources into it as quickly as possible to improve the situation,” Barbara Yaffe said.
Visit an assessment centre
There are numerous assessment centres across the province that are dedicated to COVID-19 testing. Most require appointments, although some are accepting walk-in appointments.
The assessment centres in Toronto include:
- Humber River Hospital
- Michael Garron Hospital
- North York General Hospital
- Birchmount Hospital
- St. Joseph’s Health Centre
- St. Michael’s Hospital
- Women’s College Hospital
The City of Toronto has outlined the hours for each centre on its website.
Visit the hospital
Go to the nearest hospital for testing only if your symptoms are severe or a health professional has advised you to do so.
Elliott has said that hospitals are ready if cases of COVID-19 continue to increase. She also mentioned the possibility of expanding assessment centres to get them out of hospitals, increasing lab testing capacity and in-home testing in the future.