Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some can cause illness in people and others can cause illness in animals. Human coronaviruses are common and are typically associated with mild illness, similar to the common cold.
COVID-19 is a new disease in the coronavirus family that has not been previously identified in humans. It causes a respiratory infection that can be spread from person to person through close contact.
Symptoms of COVID-19 can be mild to severe and are similar to a cold or flu. A list of symptoms can be found on the Stay Home When Sick page. Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19. This is the longest known incubation period for this disease.
COVID-19 mainly causes infections of the nose, throat and lungs. Infected individuals are most contagious when they are sick as well as the 48 hours before they show symptoms. COVID-19 is most commonly spread from an infected person through:
- respiratory droplets generated when coughing, sneezing or talking.
- close, prolonged personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands, that is within 2 metres and for at least 15 minutes.
The virus can land on surfaces and survive for hours, but it does not spread easily this way. However, touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands can spread the virus.
The virus does not spread through the air, so building residents are not at great risk from shared vents and quickly passing by another person is not a high risk either.
Recent evidence indicates that the virus can be transmitted to others from someone who is infected but not showing symptoms. This includes people who have not yet developed symptoms (pre-symptomatic) or who never develop symptoms (asymptomatic).
Here are some infection and prevention control measures to help reduce the spread of COVID-19:
- When you go out in the community, go out smart.
- Follow the latest public health guidance for social circles and social gatherings.
- If you choose to travel, follow all current guidance and recommendations.
- Practice physical distancing by staying 2 metres (6 feet) away from others outside of your social circle.
- Wash your hands frequently using soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (minimum 60% alcohol).
- Avoid touching your face, in particular your mouth, nose or eyes, especially with unwashed hands.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your upper sleeve or elbow when you cough or sneeze. Immediately throw away used tissues and wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Wear a non-medical mask or face covering in indoor public spaces or other situations where physical distancing is challenging or not possible.
- Clean and disinfect high-touch areas frequently.
- Stay home if you are sick or feeling unwell. Call to arrange for testing.
To learn more visit the Stop the Spread page.
Diagnosis, Testing and Treatment
Coronavirus infections are diagnosed by a healthcare provider based on symptoms and are confirmed through laboratory tests. Visit the Testing & Results page to find the Assessment Centre nearest you and for information on how to arrange testing.
Current testing turn-around time is, on average, 2 days, with some tests taking up to 5 days, depending on where the test occurred. If you have exposure risk (i.e. returned from travel outside of Canada or had close contact with a positive case in the past 14 days) please continue to self-isolate while awaiting test results. The handout What To Do While Waiting for Your COVID-19 Test Results has more information.
The COVID-19 test is most commonly done by nasopharyngeal (NP) swab, but it can be done by throat or deep nasal swab. For the NP swab, the health care provider has the person put their head back slightly and inserts a flexible swab through one nostril deep into the back of the nose. After rotating the swab gently and leaving in place for a few seconds, they will carefully remove the swab. The collected specimen is put into a transport vial, and along with all necessary documentation, will be sent to the lab where the analysis will be performed.
Testing is now available for asymptomatic individuals. Among those without symptoms, the following groups will be prioritized, but no one will be declined a test:
- people without symptoms who are concerned that they have been exposed to COVID-19 (this includes people who are contacts of or may have been exposed to a confirmed or suspected case).
- people without symptoms who are at risk of exposure to COVID-19 through their employment, including essential workers (e.g. health care workers, grocery store employees, food processing plants).
- people wanting to resume visits at Long-Term Care Homes, Retirement Homes and other Residential Care Settings.
A negative test does not prevent you from getting COVID-19 in the future, it only means that you do not have COVID-19 at the time the test was done. Continue to follow all public health guidance, including infection prevention and control measures.
A negative test does not mean you can come out of self-isolation if you have an exposure risk (e.g. you travelled outside of Canada or had close contact with a positive case in the past 14 days). You must continue self-isolating for 14 days from the date of your last exposure (i.e. the date you returned to Canada or the last date of contact with a confirmed case), regardless of your test result.
For people without symptoms who do have COVID-19, the viral load (i.e. the amount of the virus in the mucous membranes where the test sample is taken from) is less than it would be for those who have symptoms. Therefore, testing of individuals without symptoms may not be as accurate as testing those with symptoms.
After being tested, if you develop any symptoms of COVID-19, even if mild, you should call TBDHU at (807) 625-5900 or Toll-Free at 1 (888) 294-6630 to be assessed for re-testing.
Testing is a critical part of understanding and following the transmission patterns of the COVID-19 virus. It provides valuable information about the spread of the virus in different communities across the province and helps to better protect vulnerable populations and all Ontarians.
There is currently no antibody testing being offered in Ontario.
Case and contact management is a core competency of public health. This includes identifying close contacts for every positive COVID-19 case in the Thunder Bay District. The identification and management of these close contacts is one of the tools public health uses to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The Thunder Bay District Health Unit also completes case and contact management for other infectious diseases, such as sexually transmitted infections (e.g. chlamydia and gonorrhea), blood borne viruses, like HIV and Hepatitis C, and tuberculosis.
With regards to confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the TBDHU area, individuals who have not been contacted by public health would not be considered a close contact of confirmed cases.
For more details, watch this short video on how Case and Contact Management is carried out.
There are different types of close contacts:
- Household/ social circle contacts are generally the highest risk group with most exposure;
- Community contacts are sorted out based on whether the case had symptoms at the time of their exposure and what the length of time together was. The community contacts could be people in close contact during flights, close contact in personal care, or other people the person had interacted with closely for a significant amount of time.
- Other individuals who had similar close physical contact including face-to-face contact within 2 metres AND for more than 15 minutes could be considered close contacts.
- A public health nurse will contact any individual that is found to be a “close contact” of a person with COVID-19 and will provide further instructions.
If the health unit needs to contact you due to possible risk of exposure to COVID-19, the process to contact is first by phone. If unreachable by phone, you may receive a:
- home visit;
- letter by mail;
- social media direct message;
- text requesting to call the health unit.
There have been reports of texts and/or emails going around suggesting the recipient has been exposed to COVID-19 and to click a link. This is a scam - TBDHU will never ask you to click a link. Beware of people trying to take advantage during these tough times.
The immune response to COVID-19 is not yet understood. Experts expect that the majority of people who recover from COVID-19 will gain immunity to it for at least some amount of time - what is unknown is for how long.
At this time, there is no vaccine for COVID-19 or any natural health products that are authorized to treat or protect against COVID-19. Most people with mild coronavirus will recover on their own. Your healthcare provider may recommend steps you can take to relieve symptoms. Contact TBDHU or your healthcare provide as soon as possible if you are concerned about your symptoms.
Once a confirmed case is discharged from self-isolation, they are considered a resolved case and are no longer infectious. In order to be resolved, the individual must have completed at least 14 days of self-isolation from symptom onset AND must not have a fever AND their symptoms must be improving.
Please note: Hospitalized patients and health care workers have different criteria for coming out of self-isolation and will follow the directions provided by the hospital or their employer (e.g. Occupational Health and Safety).
Physical Distancing, Self-Monitoring and Self-Isolation
Physical distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people you come in close contact with. This will help to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the community. Everyone in the Thunder Bay District should be practicing physical distancing. Examples of physical distancing include, but are not limited to:
- establishing a safe social circle.
- maintaining a 2 metre (6 foot) physical distance from others outside of your social circle.
- wearing a non-medical mask when physical distancing is difficult to maintain.
- keeping social gatherings to no more than 100 people (outside) and 50 (inside).
- maintaining infection prevention and control measures when meeting up or out in the community.
For more information on physical distancing, please visit the Physical Distancing page.
Self-monitoring is when you watch your health for symptoms of COVID-19. Everyone should know the symptoms to watch for - a list can be found on the Stay Home When Sick page. If you develop symptoms, even if mild, call TBDHU at (807) 625-5900 or Toll-Free at 1 (888) 294-6630 to arrange for testing.
Self-isolation is when a person has been instructed to separate themselves from others with the purpose of preventing the spread of the virus, including from those within their home. The instructions for self-isolation vary for each person's individual situation.
For more information on self-isolation, please visit the Self-Isolation page.
Do not go outside for a walk, bike ride, etc. If you do not have any symptoms, you can go in your own backyard or property but must ensure you can keep 2 metres from any public space. If you do have symptoms, you must stay indoors.
If you live in an apartment, do not go into any communal or shared areas, such as hallways, gyms, public washrooms, elevators, stairwells, laundry rooms, etc.
Do not leave your place of isolation unless it is to seek medical attention.
Read more about what Self-Isolation means practically for different situations.
Everyone should be prepared to immediately self-isolate for 14 days should they develop symptoms of COVID-19 or come into close contact with a positive case. It is recommended that households plan ahead should any member of the household be required to self-isolate. For more details on what to do to be prepared, visit the Emergencies & Being Prepared page.
Social gatherings of up to 100 people are allowed outside and 50 people inside as long as physical distancing is maintained and general infection prevention and control measures are followed.
Social circles can be established with up to 10 people where physical distancing does not have to be maintained.
Learn more about these two options on the Safer Socializing page.
We all have to do our part to protect ourselves and others by following this important measure. As individuals, we are responsible for ensuring our actions do not put others at risk. We can also educate and encourage others to do the same.
If someone has returned from travel outside of Canada but is not self-isolating as required by the Quarantine Act, a complaint can be made. Visit the Phone Line to Report COVID-19 Order Violations page for details on how to do this.
Employees in impacted workplaces can discuss these cases with their employers to ensure that everyone has the needed information to ensure safety for everyone.
There is currently no evidence that pets or other domestic animals play a significant role in the spread of COVID-19.
There have been reports of people with COVID-19 spreading the virus to their pet dog or cat. If you have COVID-19 symptoms or are self-isolating due to contact with a COVID-19 case, until your illness is resolved you should:
- Avoid close contact with animals.
- Practice good hand hygiene and cough etiquette.
- If possible, have another member of your household care for your animals.
- Restrict your animal’s contact with other people and animals outside the household.
Until we know more it is recommended that if you are sick, you avoid contact with pets and other animals, just like you would other people. Find out more from Public Health Ontario and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
People walking outdoors with their pets should be at minimal risk of contracting the virus provided they maintain a physical distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet) from others.
No, there has been no demonstrated case of any coronavirus, including COVID-19, being transmitted by a mosquito or fly. The virus that cause COVID-19 spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. You can also become infected by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands.
Celebrating a birthday, anniversary or other occasion might look different these days. You can get together with those in your social circle to celebrate milestones, social gatherings with those outside your social circle have increased to up to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors as long as physical distancing is maintained, and wedding and funeral ceremonies have expanded as well.
Here are some additional ways to make the day memorable if celebrating virtually:
- Hold an online dance party with friends.
- Play pin the tail on the donkey, with virtual loves ones yelling out directions.
- Have friends send video messages, skits or songs.
If you decide to participate in a drive-by greeting, please keep these things in mind:
- Refrain from gathering in groups larger than 100 (outside) and 50 (inside) to plan the activity.
- Maintain physical distancing of at least 2 metres (6 feet) from all people outside of your social circle while planning and during the event.
- Be conscious not to obstruct traffic by limiting the number of people and cars involved and follow all traffic laws.
Hosting a garage or yard sale is not prohibited, however, should you have one, you would be responsible for adhering to all Emergency Orders as well as following appropriate infection prevention and control measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19.
- Do not exceed gathering limits (50 indoor, 100 outdoor)
- Ensure physical distancing of 2m is maintained
- Frequent hand washing/sanitizing
- Wear a mask
Buying and selling of second-hand items privately is allowed at the buyer/seller's own risk. In order to remain compliant with emergency orders and to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, certain precautions should be taken. When buying/selling items privately:
- Ensure items are cleaned and disinfected properly.
- Use contactless payment through electronic money transfer.
- Offer contactless pick-up or drop-off, such as doorstep or curbside.
At this time, real estate service providers are prohibited from hosting or supporting open houses. While private home owners don’t fall under this same restriction, you are still limited to the number of people that can be in your home at one time. Hosting an open house with more than 50 people in your home at once is prohibited at this time. Residents who are selling a home are encouraged to find other ways of showing it, such as through virtual tours and photos.
If you must hold an open house or private showing of your home:
- Provide hand sanitizer to those coming through your house.
- Turn on lights and open doors so that people don’t have to touch them.
- Maintain 2 metres (6 feet) distance from others at all times.
- Disinfect any surfaces that may have been touched after each viewing.