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COVID-19 FAQs

General FAQs

For questions and answers in Chinese, Punjabi, Farsi and French, please visit the BCCDC website. 

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization made the assessment that COVID-19, the illness caused by a newly identified coronavirus, can be characterized as a pandemic because it has spread around the world and affects many people.

On March 18, 2020, British Columbia declared a state of emergency to enable a swift public health response to COVID-19.

Working with federal officials and local health authorities, the province established protective measures in an effort to flatten the curve of transmission. These included: physical distancing and hygiene guidelines; banning of mass gatherings of 50 or more people; temporary closing non-essential businesses such as bars, restaurants, salons and barbers; requiring travellers returning from abroad to complete a 14-day self-isolation plan; and postponing non-urgent and elective surgeries. For a full listing of provincial health officer orders, visit orders, notices & guidance on the Government of BC website.

Thanks to BC's clear guidance and the sacrifices made by British Columbians in following restrictions, the province has made progress in bending the curve of transmission.  

On May 6, Premier John Horgan announced a plan to lift restrictions in phases, gradually allowing for more social and economic activity, while closely monitoring health information to minimize the risk to the public. For more information, visit BC's Restart Plan.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found mostly in animals. In humans, they can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). The illness caused by this new coronavirus has been named COVID-19.‎

 

For the latest on symptoms related to COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 symptoms page.

If you think you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 you can try this quick, online self-assessment tool: https://covid19.thrive.health/

Agencies such as the WHO, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the BC Centre for Disease Control are continually evaluating the latest scientific evidence to determine how we can best prevent and control the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Public Health experts are quite confident that Coronavirus Disease is spread through droplet transmission, which is consistent with all other coronaviruses. This type of transmission from person to person occurs when infected people cough or sneeze and produce droplets.

There is evidence that the coronavirus may be spread before people realize they have symptoms.

There is no reported evidence of airborne transmission. 

For tips on prevention, visit our COVID-19 Prevention page.

For information on the latest testing guidelines, please visit our COVID-19 testing page.

While there is currently no specific treatment for COVID-19, a number of possible treatments are in clinical trials. Find the complete list of trials happening within Canada via Health Canada.

The World Health Organization has been leading efforts to fast-track the development of vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat COVID-19. The WHO cites several ongoing clinical trials happening across the globe, although none to-date have been proven to prevent or cure COVID-19. For more information, visit who.int/teams/blueprint/covid-19

 

Keep physical distancing as much as possible when in the community. No handshaking or hugs outside of your family. Continue to practice good hygiene, including:

  • Regular hand washing

  • Avoiding touching your face

  • Covering coughs and sneezes

  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces

Most importantly, if you have cold, flu or COVID-like symptoms, get tested and stay home.

For more healthy practices, visit our COVID-19 Prevention page or the Sneezes and Diseases website. For information on the latest testing guidelines, please visit our COVID-19 testing page.

In Phase 2 of BC's Restart Plan, restrictions on the following social and businesses settings will be lifted under enhanced protocols commencing mid-May:

  • Health services

    • Re-scheduling elective surgery

  • Medically related services:

    • Dentistry, physiotherapy, registered massage therapy, and chiropractors

    • Physical therapy, speech therapy, and similar services

  • Retail sector

  • Hair salons, barbers, and other personal service establishments

  • In-person counselling

  • Restaurants, cafes, and pubs (with sufficient distancing measures)

  • Museums, art galleries, and libraries

  • Office-based worksites

  • Recreation and sports

  • Parks, beaches, and outdoor spaces

  • Child care

For more information, visit BC's Restart Plan.

For a full listing of provincial health officer orders, visit orders, notices & guidance on the Government of BC website.

If you work in a sector included in Phase 1 or Phase 2 of BC's Restart Plan, planning is underway to ensure that it is safe for you to return to work.  If you are over 60 or have underlying health conditions, you may wish to consult with your primary care provider before returning to work.  All employers must follow enhanced protocols mandated by the Public Health and Safety Guidelines and WorkSafeBC

If for any reason you are concerned about the safety of yourself or your colleagues at your workplace, contact WorkSafeBC.

Do not go to work if you have cold, flu or COVID-like symptoms. Get tested and stay home. For more healthy practices, visit our COVID-19 Prevention page or the Sneezes and Diseases website. For information on the latest testing guidelines, please visit our COVID-19 testing page.

The number of COVID-19 cases in British Columbia has been steadily declining. BC currently has the lowest mortality of any jurisdiction in North America or Western Europe with a population of more than five million.

The province's modelling has accurately predicted several key indicators in efforts to flatten the pandemic curve, including trends in hospitalization rates, visits to ICUs, and recently confirmed infections. Based on modelling, it is now safe to begin cautiously allowing for greater interactions, increasing our rate of contact to about 60% of pre-COVID-19 normal, while maintaining a flat transmission rate.

We must all continue to do our part in preventing the spread of COVID-19 to protect our communities.

For more information, see BC's Restart Plan.

As part of BC's Restart Plan, in mid-May non-essential services will begin to open such as hair salons, restaurants and pub, parks and recreation. If you work at an office-based worksite, you may be asked to return. However, until we have widespread vaccination, broad successful treatments, evidence of community immunity, or the equivalent, it will not be safe to return to conditions pre-COVID-19. Instead, we must prepare for a new normal, continuing our healthy practices to protect ourselves and our community. You will also notice businesses and organizations following enhanced protocols, some of which may include:

  • Measures to reduce the number of people inside a space

  • Physical barriers (like plexiglass at checkouts) or increased ventilation

  • The use of non-medical masks by staff and members of the public

For more information, visit BC's Restart Plan

When an outbreak happens, COVID-19 cases are tracked by the province's health authorities working in collaboration with public health officials by actively contact tracing those who may be directly affected and their close contacts.

British Columbia continues to increase the number of tests in the province. As of May 9, the number of tests totalled more than 100,000. For more information, visit BC COVID-19 data

While the transmission rate in BC has been steadily declining, the risk of exposure remains until we have widespread vaccination, broad successful treatments, evidence of community immunity, or the equivalent. An outbreak poses a serious threat to our health care system and communities.

Everyone must do their part in preventing the spread of COVID-19 to protect our communities, which includes seniors and at risk people. Practice physical distancing, keeping about two metres (six feet) apart, wash hands regularly, and if you have cold, flu or COVID-like symptoms, get tested and stay home.

For more healthy practices, visit our COVID-19 Prevention page or the Sneezes and Diseases website. For information on the latest testing guidelines, please visit our COVID-19 testing page.

When visiting with friends and family who are not part of your household, keep gatherings to small groups of around 2 to 6 people. Visit outdoors where possible and practice physical distancing. Do not share food, drinks, utensils, etc. If you are at greater risk (over the age of 60 or with underlying medical conditions), be informed of your risk, think through your risk tolerance and take extra precautions if desired.

For more healthy practices, visit our COVID-19 Prevention page or the Sneezes and Diseases website. 

Those over the age of 60 are at greater risk if exposed to COVID-19. Before arranging your visit with a relative over 60, make sure they are aware of their risk, taking into consideration any underlying health conditions.  During your visit, you may wish to take extra precautions such as avoiding handshakes or hugs and maintaining physical distance. For more healthy practices, visit our COVID-19 Prevention page or the Sneezes and Diseases website. 

If your relative resides at a long-term care home, you will not be permitted to see them as visitations are restricted at this time.

Do not plan to visit relatives if you have cold, flu or COVID-like symptoms.

The best way to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 is to frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. It's also important to avoid touching your face, ensuring you sneeze or cough into your elbow, and to practice physical distancing (at least two metres from other people when you are outside of your home or workplace.)

Agencies such as the WHO, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the BC Centre for Disease Control are continually evaluating the latest scientific evidence to determine how we can best prevent and control the spread of the novel coronavirus.  This ongoing evaluation includes the effectiveness and use of masks by members of the public. Vancouver Coastal Health follows the recommendations of these agencies.

Based on these recommendations, we offer the following guidelines.

Medical masks such as N95 and surgical masks should be used by people who are sick and health-care workers. Such masks are an appropriate part of infection prevention and control if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or are providing health-care. The mask acts as a barrier and helps stop droplets from spreading when you cough or sneeze. Medical masks are also in short supply and are needed by health-care workers to safely care for their patients.

As well as maintaining physical distance, wearing a non-medical mask or cloth face covering while in a public place is an additional measure that people can take to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  Particularly when it is difficult to keep a safe physical distance for an extended period of time - for example, when you are on transit - non medical or cloth face coverings are a good way to protect those around you. There is evidence that the coronavirus may be spread before people realize they have symptoms, and wearing a mask in public may help protect others, especially in situations where physical distancing is difficult to maintain.

However, masks may give a false sense of security and are likely to increase the number of times a person will touch their own face (e.g., to adjust the mask). Face coverings keep our own droplets in but may not prevent transmission from others. The best way for you to stay safe is to wash your hands, maintain physical distance from others and keep the provincial guidelines for social interactions top of mind. 

For more tips on prevention, visit our COVID-19 Prevention page.

 

There are currently no government restrictions on travel within Canada. If transmission rates remain low or in decline by June 2020, under enhanced protocols hotels and resorts and some overnight camping will re-open.

Non-essential international travel is strongly discouraged. All international travellers returning to British Columbia are required by law to self-isolate for 14 days and complete a self-isolation plan. Self-isolation plans must be reviewed by provincial government officials before travellers can return home. For more information on how to submit your self-isolation plan, go to gov.bc.ca/returningtravellers

At this time, the Provincial Government still prohibits gatherings larger than 50 people including indoor and outdoor sporting events, conferences, meetings, religious gatherings or other similar events. This threshold has been selected as it is much easier in smaller gatherings to maintain important physical distancing to prevent transmission of COVID-19.

This measure will not be lifted until we have widespread vaccination, broad successful treatments, evidence of community immunity, or the equivalent.

For a full listing of provincial health officer orders, visit orders, notices & guidance on the Government of BC website.

Community immunity (also known as herd immunity) occurs when a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to an infectious disease (through vaccination and/or prior exposure to the COVID-19 virus.).  There is no evidence to date that the COVID-19 pandemic has reached a level of community immunity.

 

Research is underway to determine if those who have recovered from COVID-19 are immune to the virus. However, not enough information is available at this time to confirm if a person previously infected has developed antibodies needed to protect them from re-infection. BC is collaborating with national agencies to assess the accuracy of and performance of COVID-19 antibody testing before making it available. For more information, visit common COVID-19 questions on BCCDC.

Please note that a memo that appeared to contain our logo claiming to cite advice from BCCDC regarding the use of Ibuprofen/Advil in relation to COVID-19 was not an authentic memo. The information about ibuprofen is new and we are reviewing the evidence. 

 

If you have concerns that a specific business is not following public health orders or concerns around people not following provincial health orders for gatherings, you can contact your local municipality.

Where can I report a person who isn't practicing physical distancing?

We are recommending physical distancing as one of the ways to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. At this time, there are no public health orders enforcing physical distancing.  

These are unprecedented times, and your children may be worried about their family, friends and themselves.  It is important to talk to your children about this disease and give them some reassurance. It may be difficult to know what to say or how much information to share. Below are some resources that can help support you in your efforts to provide information about COVID-19 to your children.  

Use of non-medical masks in managing community transmission of COVID-19

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has recommended wearing homemade non-medical masks or face coverings in the community when it is not possible to consistently maintain a two-metre physical distance from others, particularly in crowded public settings. However, PHAC has indicated local public health officials should make their own recommendations based on a number of factors, including the rates of COVID-19 infection and transmission in their community, so recommendations may vary from location to location.‎

In the Vancouver Coastal Health region, we currently have very low rates of community transmission of COVID-19 and have managed to flatten the curve better than many other jurisdictions in Canada. Because of that, we are telling the public that they may choose to wear a non-medical mask when in public, but we are not recommending it.

Non-medical masks may prevent you from exposing others to your own droplets, but will not necessarily decrease your own risk of infection. Any non-medical mask will have minimal effect as a protective measure if it is not used together with other preventive measures, such as frequent hand washing and physical distancing, and could offer a false sense of security. 

It is most important that you do not go into public if you are sick, whether or not you are wearing a mask, even if it is medical grade. Stay home, unless you must attend a medical appointment or go for COVID-19 testing. ‎

 

Wearing a mask in workplace is not recommended or necessary.  Workplaces in B.C. are developing COVID-19 safety plans which include a number of measures in place to prevent transmission.  WorkSafeBC suggests the use of non-medical masks only if all other protective measures have been taken and found to be not sufficient. Even then, WorkSafeBC says masks offer only limited protection. However, you may be required to wear a mask in your workplace depending on the nature of your employment. If you are unsure, consult with your manager or visit the WorkSafeBC website.‎

 

Outside of a health care setting or long-term care home, there are no requirements to wear a face mask in a public space. Still, some retailers or personal care services such as hair salons, barbers, nail care etc., may have their own policies requiring customers to wear a mask while in their premises, even though it is not required by WorkSafeBC or public health officials. In those cases, they should provide customers with the mask.‎

Medical masks such as surgical masks and N95 respirators should only be used by health care workers in patient care areas and, and by  patients in health care settings who are sick. Such masks are an appropriate part of infection prevention and control if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or are caring for a person with symptoms. If you choose to wear a mask while out in public, please use non-medical masks and face coverings. The mask acts as a barrier and helps stop droplets from spreading when you cough or sneeze.

The single best preventative measure against COVID-19 is to stay home from work if you are sick, and get tested if you have even mild symptoms suggestive of COVID-19. Also practicing excellent hand hygiene, including frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer. As well, it is extremely important that you avoid touching your face, sneeze or cough into your elbow, and practice physical distancing (at least two metres from other people when you are outside of your home or workplace).‎

 

Hospital FAQs

For the safety of our patients and health care providers, we are restricting visitors to essential visits only at all of our sites. Essential visits include:

Essential visits include:

  • Visits for compassionate care, including critical illness, palliative care, hospice care, end of life, and medical assistance in dying (MAID)

  • Visits paramount to the patient or client's physical care and mental well-being, including:

    • Assistance with feeding, mobility, personal care

    • Communication assistance for persons with hearing, visual, speech, cognitive, intellectual or memory impairments

    • Assistance by designated representatives for persons with disabilities, including provision of emotional support

    • Visits for supported decision-making

    • Visits for pediatric care, labour and delivery

  • Existing registered volunteers providing the services described above.

  • Visits required to move belongings in or out of a client's room.

  • Police, correctional officers and peace officers accompanying a patient/client for security reasons.

Essential visits shall be limited to one visitor per patient/client within the facility at a time, and a visitor who is a child may be accompanied by one parent, guardian or family member. 

Virtual visits are strongly encouraged and supported where in-person visits are not possible.

Review of decisions about essential visits: Families and visitors can ask for a review of a decision about what is considered an essential visit by contacting the VCH Patient Care Quality Office.

Staff are well prepared and have protocols in place to ensure any patient that presents to a hospital with symptoms of COVID-19 does not pose a risk to others. These new rules are in place as a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of patients, staff and physicians.

We are also taking extra precautions at our ambulatory and outpatient clinics, including pre-screening for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 prior to any clinic visits. We will ask that patients, if clinically indicated, defer their visit until their signs and symptoms resolve. If the visit is required, we will explore ways to do the visit virtually or with appropriate precautions in the respective clinic.

 

In March, the province ordered the cancellation of elective and non-urgent surgeries to ensure that British Columbians with COVID-19 would have access to hospital beds. The transmission rate has since been steadily declining. On May 7, the Province announced it will launch an extensive surgical renewal plan that will include calling patients, adding new capacity, and hiring and training staff.

Beginning on May 18, 2020, elective and non-urgent surgeries will resume.

We are currently working with our health care teams on a plan of action.

For more information, visit BC's Restart Plan.

We are so grateful for the many offers from individuals and organizations to donate protective equipment, financial support and time to our health-care workers and hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.  To find out how you can support, please visit www.vch.ca/donate.‎‎

 

Long-term care & assisted living FAQs

We have been working closely with Vancouver Coastal Health Public Health Officers and Infection Prevention and Control to contain the outbreak and keep your family member safe. That is our priority. We have put outbreak control measures in place. This could mean a delay in the delivery of some services due to the stepped-up response to the outbreak.‎

If my loved one was exposed to the infected person (staff, doctor or resident) do they get tested? 

All our residents and staff are being closely monitored and will be tested if they develop respiratory or gastrointestinal illness compatible with COVID-19. ‎

If I visited my loved one within the past few weeks, should I be tested?

We are following up with those family members who we believe may have been exposed. Family member who may have been exposed will be asked to monitor themselves for symptoms and in some cases may be asked to isolate. We would like to remind families and visitors that we are asking anyone with symptoms to self-isolate for 10 days and use the new provincial self-assessment tool to determine if you need further testing for COVID-19 (https://covid19.thrive.health/).‎

If this goes on for a long time, are we considering the psychological impact of residents staying in their rooms?

Yes, that is why we have  regular outbreak meetings to see what is happening in the facility, what stage we are at, what measures need to be in place and which can be discontinued or replaced with something else. We do relax the measures as appropriate but we have to make sure we don’t relax them to the point where transmission happens again. We understand the measures cause harm as well as benefit and do our best to minimize the impact on residents.  ‎

If we have concerns or the outbreak gets bigger, can we still remove our relative?

Yes. There are no restrictions on removing a resident to your home. There are restrictions on moving them to another facility, and there is a restriction on bringing the resident back into this facility. Residents removed from the facility will not be able to re-enter until we and the health authorities are absolutely positive there is no risk in doing so, which could be an extended period.

We can limit the spread of illness using many of the same steps we take during seasonal influenza outbreaks:

  1. Enhanced cleaning: We have increased cleaning frequency to high touch areas such as the side rails, tables and elevator buttons. This should reduce the risk of transmission of virus from objects 

  2. Symptom Monitoring & Testing:  To prevent transmission we need to identify who might be sick. This means carefully monitoring staff and residents for symptoms and providing testing where appropriate.

  3. Isolation of Cases: To prevent the spread of COVID-19 we take all possible steps to keep residents who have COVID-19 in their rooms while they are recovering.

  4. Physical Distancing: During an outbreak we reduce group and social activities to decrease the risk of transmission. This may mean that enjoyable activities are put on hold.

  5. Personal Protective Equipment: For staff and patient safety, staff will be using personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, and gowns.

  6. Limiting to work at one location: Staff are working at only one location. They are not moving between facilities.

  7. No Visitor Policy: No visitors are allowed at long-term care homes, with the only exception being one family member at a time during end-of-life.

When there have been no new cases for two incubation periods we can declare an outbreak over. COVID-19 has an incubation period of 14 days, so we need to see 28 days with no new cases to declare the outbreak over.  We will continue to watch carefully until the risk of COVID-19 subsides in the community and there is a risk of re-introduction of the virus. 

Keep in mind that any newly diagnosed cases that occur in the next few days were most likely infected before the protocols were introduced and simply had a longer incubation period. The early stages of an outbreak are an extremely stressful period because we don't know what transmission has occurred. That is why there is an initial cluster of cases and then we enter a long watchful waiting period.  

If you have questions about COVID-19, please 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319) or text 604-630-0300 from 7:30 am to 8 pm.

At the long-term care home, The Director of Care is your main contact. They may not always be able to answer right away because they may be providing care or taking care of many other tasks, as you can understand, but they will get back to you as soon as they are able. 

For families with additional questions, requiring emotional support or needing assistance navigating the healthcare system, please contact the VCH LTC Family Support Line at 1-844-824-2219 or locally 604 875-4953.  Please note that the VCH LTC Family Support line cannot provide specific resident status reports.  

If your loved one tests positive you will be notified and we will take steps to ensure they get the care they need. Your loved one's health-care team will work with you to make that decision based on their condition. 

 
Please call the facility to see how we can set up communication with your loved one. Please be patient if you have trouble getting through and rest assured we will try to connect you as soon as possible. 

We are working hard to source out extra staff to make up for any gaps due to staff isolation.  We are deeply grateful for the patience, kindness and understanding of our residents and families as we work hard to mitigate this outbreak. ‎

 

We understand isolation is a significant issue among the elderly and particularly during this pandemic period when many new policies are in place for everyone's protection. We are working on creative ways to get you in touch with your loved one that will not compromise their safety, or the safety of other residents or staff. Please contact the site for more details on what you can do to reach your loved one. ‎





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