What to do if you think you have COVID-19: A guide to each province and territory
If you have symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus, here's what to do
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, hospital or pharmacy. 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.
If you believe you have symptoms and have been in contact with someone who is known to have the illness, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) says the first step is to use its online assessment tool. If the results suggest you should do so, call your health-care provider, or the health line at 811.
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."
People who have been tested are asked to wait 72 hours before calling the negative results line.
For non-medical questions related to social distancing, travel and accessing government assistance, you can call the province's new, dedicated coronavirus hotline, 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319), 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m..
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. The province is currently limiting testing to people who are showing symptoms and who fall within certain at-risk groups. Those groups include people hospitalized with respiratory illness, people living in a continuing-care or similar facility, health-care workers with respiratory symptoms, and international travellers who returned between March 8 and March 12.
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. Alberta has also launched a mobile app that connects patients with doctors for video appointments, a joint venture with Telus Health. There are two drive-thru testing centres now open, in Calgary and Edmonton, but these also require a referral from Health Link.
The province launched an online assessment tool to help people assess whether they need medical attention and testing. To help with volume on Healthline 811, the Saskatchewan Health Authority asks people to call only if an online assessment determines whether they should be tested. 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.
Dedicated testing facilities have been set up across the province, 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 are still around two hours, even after staff was quadrupled, and a new self-assessment tool is online now. Additionally, for those who prefer, the self-assessment is now also available over the phone at 1-877-308-9038 using interactive voice response (IVR) format.
The province has opened 11 dedicated testing sites, five in Winnipeg and one each in Brandon, Selkirk, Thompson, Flin Flon, Winkler, Steinbach and The Pas. The location in Selkirk and Winkler, as well as one in Winnipeg, are drive-thru testing sites.
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.
Ontarians experiencing symptoms are asked to first use the online assessment tool to determine whether further action is required. Ontario's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, 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.
However, Telehealth Ontario has had service interruptions and people continue to struggle to get through, sometimes encountering a busy signal when selecting the call-back option. 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.
The wait to get test results is currently between five and seven days, though associate medical officer of health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said Public Health Ontario's laboratory has expanded, allowing up to 5,000 tests per day to be conducted.
Michelle Hoad, CEO of the Medical Laboratory Professionals Association of Ontario, said the wait time is much longer for people in remote areas because of how long it takes to get a specimen to a testing centre. "The problem is someone who is sitting in Timmins, if they need to get their test done, it's either going to come to Toronto, or it's going to go to Ottawa." Lab staff are also still processing 500,000 non-COVID-19 lab tests taken daily in Ontario, she said.
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.
Montreal has a new walk-in testing site using outdoor tents set up on the grounds of the Place des Festivals. If you've not received the go-ahead from an information line, only come to this site if two of the criteria are met as described in this list.
You can find Quebec's latest coronavirus updates here.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador opened mobile test centres with Western and Eastern Health on Saturday. The province's health authority says the clinics will operate seven days a week, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., with nurses collecting samples while individuals remain in their vehicles.
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.
Nova Scotia is asking anyone who arrives in the province from outside Nova Scotia or the country to self-isolate for 14 days. 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.
COVID-19 assessment sites have been set up in 14 locations, and the following hospitals can both assess and treat the illness:
- QEII-Halifax Infirmary site.
- Dartmouth General Hospital.
- Yarmouth Regional Hospital.
- Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney.
- St. Martha's Regional Hospital in Antigonish.
- Colchester East Hants Health Centre in Truro.
You should only visit any of these locations if you've been instructed to do so through 811.
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. P.E.I. has launched an online self-assessment for COVID-19 to alleviate pressure on 811.
The province asks that you call 811 only if you've returned from outside of Canada in the past 14 days, have a fever greater than 38 C and/or a cough or if you've been in close contact (within two metres) with a person with a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19. If necessary, you'll be directed to a clinic for testing.
If you don't have symptoms, but have other general health questions related to coronavirus, call 1-800-958-6400.
You can find Prince Edward Island's latest coronavirus updates here.
The province asks that people who have symptoms start by using the online assessment tool before calling Tele-Care 811, which has been flooded with inquires. It will give you a colour-coded assessment of either red for "need help now," yellow for "need help soon," or green to indicate care can be managed at home.
The province announced last week it was setting up 13 new COVID-19 assessment centres across the province. You can find more details here.
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.
You can find New Brunswick's latest coronavirus updates here.
Yukon has now launched an online assessment tool for those who have symptoms.
People who have travelled to Yukon from any other province or territory, or from outside the country — including those who have been to Alaska — are asked to self-isolate for 14 days and monitor for symptoms.
If you develop symptoms call the 24-hour health information like 811 before going to an ER, family physician, walk-in clinic or local health centre.
You can find Yukon's latest coronavirus updates here.
Northwest Territories has shut its borders to people coming in from outside of the territory. It now has an online self-assessment tool, and 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.
N.W.T. chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola said the territory is particularly vulnerable given limited hospital capacity and isolated communities, noting that it's taking up to seven days to get test results back from a lab in Alberta.
The numbers to call about screening and testing are:
- Yellowknife: 867-767-9120.
- Inuvik: 867-490 –2225.
- Fort Smith: 867-872-6219 or 867-872-6221.
- Hay River: 867-874-7201 (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) or 867-874-8050 after hours..
Other communities can access the numbers for their local health centres here.
You can find Northwest Territories latest coronavirus updates here.
Nunavut asks anyone arriving in the territory from elsewhere in the country or internationally to self-isolate for 14 days. 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.
With files from Elizabeth Fraser, Cassidy Chisholm, Bartley Kives, Sarah Petz, Bryce Hoye and The Canadian Press