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General FAQs

Updated December 9, 2020. 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.

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 relatively 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:

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

COVID-19 is primarily 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.

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


VCH and the province of B.C. have been regularly sharing advice and tips on how people can protect themselves and others from COVID-19. Our advice to the public includes staying home if sick, washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, maintaining physical distance when possible in public settings and wearing a mask in indoor public places. Limit gatherings to your immediate household. These measures are very effective in limiting the spread of illness.


For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, please visit the Government of British Columbia COVID-19 vaccine page

Please refer to the current guidance posted on the Government of B.C. website: Province-wide restrictions

For more information, visit BC's Restart Plan.


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

COVID-19 cases are tracked by the province's health authorities working in collaboration with public health officials by actively contact tracing cases and their close contacts.

VCH public health follows up directly with every person in our region who tests positive for COVID-19. If a person is a close contact of someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19, then a member of VCH’s public health team will contact them as well to let them know. Cases and contacts will be asked to self-isolate, so they don’t spread illness to others. Contract tracing helps diagnose people earlier to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19. If you have been identified as a COVID-19 case or close contact, please know that VCH will contact you directly and provide further instructions.

British Columbia continues to increase testing capacity in the province. For more information, visit BC COVID-19 data.

People who are awaiting the results of their COVID-19 test must self-isolate until they receive their results.

People who test positive for COVID-19  must self-isolate, which means staying home and avoiding contact with others, for at least 10 days after the start of symptoms.

People identified as close contacts and at risk of developing COVID-19 must self-isolate for 14 days after their last contact with an ill person. VCH Public Health will contact you directly to give you instructions if you are an identified contact.

People who have arrived in Canada from international travel must self-isolate for 14 days after arrival.

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 (WHO) has been leading efforts to fast-track the development of vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat COVID-19. For more information, visit

Since there is currently no vaccine available for COVID-19, the best way to protect yourself, your family and your community is to follow public health advice and orders, stay home if you’re feeling sick, wash your hands, maintain a physical distance from others and wear a mask in public indoor spaces.

A case is a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

A contact is a person who has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 and is at risk of getting ill. Public Health will instruct contacts to self-isolate for 14 days.

An exposure is when a person with COVID-19 has had close contact with others during their infectious period, putting them at risk of getting ill.


A cluster is when Public Health determines there is a link between two or more individuals with COVID-19. An outbreak, on the other hand, is when a Medical Health Officer identifies transmission within a setting and additional public health measures are required to limit the spread of COVID-19. The exception to this is in a long-term care home, when Public Health may declare an outbreak and put a facility under precautions after identifying a single case.

For the current public health orders, visit orders, notices & guidance on the Government of BC website: Province-wide restrictions

For more information, visit BC's Restart Plan.

Until there is an effective vaccine that is widely available, we must all continue to do our part in preventing the spread of COVID-19 to protect our communities.

For more information, visit BC's Restart Plan.

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 at least 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.

The Provincial Health Officer has issued an order for all individuals, places of work, and businesses across the province. Please keep up to date with current orders by referring to the Government of B.C. website: Orders, notices, and guidance

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 in a long-term care home, you may not be permitted to see them as visitation is limited at this time. Please check with the long-term care home for current restrictions.

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


For a full listing of current provincial health officer orders, visit the Government of B.C. website: Orders, notices, and guidance


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. B.C. 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.


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


We are recommending physical distancing as one of the ways to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

During a public health emergency under the Public Health Act, the PHO can make orders as needed. You must follow the orders.

Orders can be enforced by police or other compliance and enforcement officials. People who don't follow the order could be fined.

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. At the link are some resources that can help support you in your efforts to provide information about COVID-19 to your children.



VCH does not comment on specific COVID-19 cases for patient privacy reasons and only issues public notices about a potential exposure when it is not able to reach all the close contacts of someone who is ill.

All schools in the VCH region have robust safety plans in place. Schools are considered a controlled environment because they include a consistent group of people, such as a class setting.

‎VCH’s Public Health team is dedicated to consistently and vigorously monitoring and tracing cases of COVID-19 in schools and we continue to support school communities to manage cases if and when they occur. Should a student of staff member test positive for COVID-19, our immediate priority is to notify individuals who may be exposed in the most direct manner. This is the most effective public health practice as it allows us to quickly contact affected individuals as well as maintain patient confidentiality.

When we are unable to directly reach all close contacts in a timely manner, we use other means to contact students, parents and staff members, which may include a letter or a public notification regarding an exposure at a school. Even in these situations, all close contacts would have received notification that they are at risk. If you have not been contacted by VCH directly, it is safe for your child to remain in school.


Find information about COVID safety in schools, and a list of current school exposures on VCH’s website at These notices are posted for two weeks and then archived.


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.

People at work may be concerned about the potential for exposure to COVID-19. If VCH learns about an exposure in the workplace, if will contact the employer to notify anyone at risk. VCH will contact people who are close contacts directly and may review the workplace’s safety plan. VCH does not comment on specific COVID-19 cases for patient privacy reasons and only issues public notices about a potential exposure when it is not able to reach all the close contacts of someone who is ill.

Public exposures

Keep physical distancing as much as possible when in the community. No handshakes or hugs outside of your family. Wear a mask in indoor public spaces. 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.


VCH will contact people who are close contacts or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19 directly. VCH will only issue a public exposure alert if it determines there is a risk of public exposure and they are unable to contact everyone who may have been exposed. If public notification has not occurred, Public Health has been able to identify close contacts and safely isolate them while they monitor for symptoms for 14 days.


Face masks

Wearing a non-medical face mask in indoor public places is now a requirement in B.C. For more information, please refer to the Government of B.C. website.

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


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


Workplaces in B.C. are updating COVID-19 safety plans which include a number of measures in place to prevent transmission. You may be required to wear a mask in your workplace in certain situations, depending on the nature of your employment. If you are unsure, consult with your manager or visit the WorkSafeBC website.‎


In B.C., it is now required to wear a non-medical face mask in public indoor spaces. Private businesses may have their own policies requiring customers to wear a mask while in their premises.

In November 2020, the B.C. Ministry of Health released new provincial direction about mask use in health care facilities.

  • In our health care facilities, it is now mandatory for everyone to wear a medical mask. This includes common areas and break rooms, unless you are eating and/or drinking. Patients, clients and visitors must also wear a medical mask. PPE protocols for the relevant patient care procedures/settings remain in place.

As just one part of the hierarchy of controls, masks supplement but do not replace other important measures such as physical distancing, cleaning and disinfection, staying home when sick, and good hand hygiene.

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, practice excellent hand hygiene, including frequently washing 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; practice physical distancing (at least two metres from other people when you are outside of your home or workplace) and wear a non-medical face covering in public places, such as in retail stores and on transit.


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:

  • 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.

As we provide health-care services during COVID-19, keeping you safe continues to be our top priority. Across VCH, our infection prevention and control standards are in place to protect our patients, clients, staff and physicians. For more information, please visit the Care during COVID-19 page.

During the pandemic, emergency departments across VCH are prepared to safely receive and care for all individuals who experience health conditions that require urgent and emergency care. The public is advised to seek urgent and emergent care without delay, to prevent the exacerbation of medical conditions.


On May 18, 2020, the Government of B.C. announced that elective and non-urgent surgeries would resume.

For more information, visit BC's Restart Plan and the Care during COVID-19 page.


Long-term care & assisted living

The health and safety of residents and health care providers at long-term care homes remains an utmost priority as part of Vancouver Coastal Health’s pandemic response. We take critical steps to ensure the safety of patients, residents, staff and community with early identification of cases, prompt isolation, testing, monitoring, and execution of proper infection prevention and control practices. During an outbreak at a long term care home, we make every effort to mitigate transmission of COVID-19. Outbreak measures can include enhanced cleaning, appropriate use of personal protective equipment by staff and other infection prevention and control precautions at the facility.


During an outbreak at a long-term care home, all residents are closely monitored and will be tested if they develop respiratory or gastrointestinal illness compatible with COVID-19.


VCH Public Health teams actively monitor and trace cases of COVID-19 and will notify all contacts of cases exposed to the virus in the most direct manner possible. Family members who may have been exposed will be asked to monitor themselves for symptoms and in some cases may be asked to self-isolate. If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, use the new provincial self-assessment tool to determine if you need further testing for COVID-19 (‎


Yes. Regular outbreak meetings are held for each facility under outbreak protocol, to determine what measures must stay in place, and which can be discontinued or replaced with something else. Measures are relaxed as appropriate, but not 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.


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


We limit the spread of illness with measures such as:

1. Enhanced cleaning: 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 and Testing:  To prevent transmission staff and residents are carefully monitored for symptoms. Testing is provided 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 group and social activities are reduced to decrease the risk of transmission. 

5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): For staff and patient safety, staff will use PPE such as masks, gloves, and gowns.

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

7. Visitor Policy:  Provincial guidelines for visitation in long-term care homes and seniors’ assisted living residences require each facility to develop written safety plans.

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 28 days must pass with no new cases to declare an outbreak over.


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

At a long-term care home, The Director of Care is the main contact for families. For families with additional questions, who require emotional support or need assistance navigating the health-care 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 decisions for their care based on their condition.


Please call the facility to see how communication with your loved one can be coordinated.


Vancouver Coastal Health works with all long-term care and assisted living facilities to support and fill gaps due to staff illness.


VCH understands 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. Please contact the residence to learn how you may connect with your loved one that will not compromise their safety, or the safety of other residents or staff.


In response to COVID-19, the Ministry of Health has created flexibility in the policy on Temporary Absences from Long Term Care (LTC). This change allows residents to leave their LTC home for a maximum of 90 days in a calendar year.

Additional information about temporary absences from long-term care during COVID-19:


Please refer to the Government of B.C. website on current public health orders that may restrict travel to and from your location: Province-wide restrictions.

Travel outside your home community is not recommended at this time.  If you must travel within B.C. or between provinces, check to make sure towns, communities and regions are ready to welcome you. Find details on the travel page on BCCDC.

Non-essential local, provincial, national and 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


If you do not have any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and require an assessment or documentation for travel outside of Canada, please visit the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) Travel/Vaccination Clinic or a primary care provider.

For more information, please visit our Assessment for travel page.


If you travel outside of Canada, you 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 travel during COVID-19, please visit our Assessment for travel page.

For more information, visit the travel page on BCCDC.


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