Health

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 — including cough, fever and difficulty breathing in adults, or a runny nose, sore throat and diarrhea in children — here's what to do.

If you have symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus, here's what to do

Quebec health-care workers hand out information pamphlets on COVID-19 procedures to passengers arriving from abroad at Trudeau International Airport in Montreal on March 16. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press )

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, the first step in most parts of Canada is to use a provincial or territorial self-assessment tool.

Health Canada also has its own online assessment tool.

The results from your online test will tell you if you need 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.

Due to limited testing capacity, most provinces and territories are restricting testing to priority groups, such as close contacts of people who have been diagnosed with the illness or some front-line health workers. 

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:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • 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.
  • Diarrhea.

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.

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is shown during a news conference regarding the coronavirus in Vancouver on March 14. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

British Columbia

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 (BCC​​​​​​DC) 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. If necessary, you will be referred to an assessment centre for screening.

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

Alberta Health Services has an online self-assessment tool that you can use to determine if you have symptoms of COVID-19.

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. However, all residents of the Calgary health zone who have symptoms are now eligible for testing because that area has had consistently higher numbers than the rest of the province.

Testing is also now available to all essential workers with symptoms and anyone who lives with someone age 65 or older.

Assessment centres have been set up throughout the province, including drive-thru testing centres in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer. These also require a referral from Health Link.

You can find Alberta's Health Services latest coronavirus updates here.

Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, speaks during an update on COVID-19 in Regina on March 11. (Michael Bell/The Canadian Press)

Saskatchewan

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 in 54 locations 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.

You might choose to self-isolate at home if you’ve been exposed, or think you’ve been exposed, to COVID-19. Ellen Mauro explains what to do. 1:50

Manitoba

In Manitoba, you can call Health Links at 1-888-315-9257 for COVID-19 information, 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 17 dedicated testing sites, including nine drive-thru locations.

Anyone with symptoms can get tested. Additional details can be found here.

You can find Manitoba's latest coronavirus updates here.

A security guard opens the door for a person entering a COVID-19 assessment facility in Ottawa on March 14. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Ontario

Ontarians experiencing symptoms are asked to first use the online assessment tool to determine whether further action is required. At least 68 assessment centres have been set up across the province.

The Ministry of Health asks people to contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000, or visit a COVID-19 assessment centre for a test if they have symptoms.

You can find Ontario's latest coronavirus information here.

Quebec

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 at one of dozens of new coronavirus screening centres. 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

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald is Newfoundland and Labrador's chief medical officer of health. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador has opened a number of mobile test sites in all health regions. The clinics operate with nurses collecting samples while individuals remain in their vehicles, but are available on an appointment-only basis.

People who believe they may may have the virus are asked to call Health Line 811 (also available at 1-888-709-2929) or use this online self-assessment tool to get an appointment to visit an assessment centre.

You can find Newfoundland and Labrador's latest COVID-19 updates here.

Nova Scotia

Health Minister Randy Delorey asks people to call the province's 811 line to inquire about COVID-19 screening only if they 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 22 locations. 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.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the media in Ottawa about measures to counter the coronavirus on March 16. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Prince Edward Island

P.E.I. has launched an online self-assessment for COVID-19 and asks people to use it before calling the 811 health line, which has been experiencing higher than normal call volume.

The province has also set up cough and fever assessment centres. To get an appointment, you must be referred by your primary care provider. If you don't have a family doctor or other care provider, you can call 811.

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.

New Brunswick

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 who follow a triage completed by Tele-Care 811. Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, announced Monday that testing would be recommended for people exhibiting at least two of the following five symptoms:

  • Fever above 38 C.
  • A new cough or worsening chronic cough.
  • Sore throat.
  • Runny nose.
  • Headache.

You can find New Brunswick's latest coronavirus updates here.

Yukon 

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, local health centre or the new respiratory assessment centre in Whitehorse.

You can find Yukon's latest coronavirus updates here.

A man takes a pamphlet as public health inspectors greet passengers at Halifax Stanfield International Airport in Enfield, N.S., on March 16. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Northwest Territories

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. Health authorities across the territory have set up testing sites, including some drive-thru sites. 

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

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 also call Nunavut's new COVID-19 hotline at 975-8601 or 1-888-975-8601 from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

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

About the Author

Brandie Weikle is a senior writer for CBC News based in Toronto. She's a long-time magazine and newspaper editor and podcast host with specialities in family life, health and the workplace. You can reach her at brandie.weikle@cbc.ca.

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