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Frequently asked questions related to COVID-19

Please be advised that this document will be frequently updated with a date stamp as the recommendations are changing as the COVID-19 situation progresses.


What is COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that circulate both in humans and animals. Human coronaviruses are common and are typically associated with mild illness, similar to the “common cold” or more severe illnesses, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

How does it spread?

Coronaviruses spread through droplets from an infected person who coughs or sneezes. Through these virus-laden droplets, it can spread to people who you spend a lot of time with (close contacts) such as household members – similar to how the flu and other respiratory illnesses spread. If someone with a coronavirus coughs on a surface, and you touch the surface and then touch your eyes, mouth or nose with an unwashed hand, the virus could infect you.

Coronaviruses may survive on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Also clean your hands regularly with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, pneumonia in both lungs. Most people with mild coronavirus illness will recover on their own.

Risk of severe disease may be higher if you have a weakened immune system. This may be the case for:

  • people aged 65+; or
  • people with chronic disease such as diabetes, cancer, heart, renal or chronic lung disease.

On March 14, the Ontario Government launched an online self-assessment tool at (direct:

If you have symptoms, use this tool to decide whether you need further care.

How long does it take for symptoms to appear?

The World Health Organization advises that symptoms may appear in as few as two days or up to 14 days after contact with an infected person.

What should I do if I’m sick?

As with other viruses from the coronavirus family, there is no specific treatments or vaccine for COVID-19. Fortunately, most people with common human coronavirus illness will recover on their own. If symptoms feel worse than your standard cold, call Haldimand Norfolk Health Unit COVID-19 hotline at 519-426-6170 EXT 9999 for further direction. Do not walk into any healthcare facilities (hospital, doctor’s office or health unit) if you are experiencing any symptoms and have traveled internationally or came into close contact with a positive case.

You should also:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Get rest and sleep as much as possible
  • Try a humidifier or a hot shower to help with a sore throat or cough

How long can the virus survive on a surface?

Coronaviruses may survive on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Also clean your hands regularly with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

How will I know if a case is confirmed in Haldimand-Norfolk?

The Government of Ontario posts all confirmed cases on its website. This website is updated at 10:30 am and 5:30 pm each day. Additional updates are available from the Government of Canada.

Physicians, hospitals and other care facilities are required to report a suspected or confirmed case of the novel coronavirus to their local medical officer of health.

If a suspected or confirmed case of novel coronavirus is identified in Haldimand or Norfolk County, the Health Unit will work with the Ministry of Health, Public Health Ontario Laboratory, and local hospitals in the management of the case and any contacts.

Information about confirmed cases will be posted to the homepage of our website and shared with the media and local health care providers. We are committed to timely and accurate reporting of confirmed cases.

Where can I find quality and updated information about COVID-19?

I have a planned vacation. Should I go?

The Government of Canada posts travel advisories very regularly. Be prepared that you will be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to Canada after international travel.

On March 14, 2020, the Government of Canada issued an official global travel advisory to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice.

What should I do if I have recently traveled internationally?

  1. and stay at home for 14 days upon returning to Canada
  2. for fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.

Should these individuals develop symptoms, they are to:

  1. Notify local public health immediately at 519-426-6170 EXT 9999, and
  2. Notify their healthcare provider prior to visiting any healthcare facility.

What is the difference between self-monitor and self-isolate?

When will I need to self-monitor or self-isolate?

Please note: in order to decrease transmission of COVID-19 the Public Health Agency of Canada is recommending that all residents practice social distancing.

The priority of the healthcare system is being able to test those who are most in need.  Not everyone requires testing. People WITHOUT respiratory symptoms (such as fever or cough) will NOT be tested for COVID-19, regardless of potential exposures.

Even if you do not have symptoms, it is recommended to self-isolate for 14 days if:

  • You have travelled anywhere outside of Canada (including the United States of America).
  • You live with, provided care for, or spent extensive time with someone who has:
    • Tested positive for COVID-19, OR is suspected to have COVID-19, OR who has respiratory symptoms (fever, cough, or shortness of breath) that started within 14 days of travel outside of Canada.

NOTE: Most people with mild symptoms will recover on their own at home


If you have SEVERE SYMPTOMS (you have frequent shortage of breath and cannot manage your symptoms at home)

  • If this is a medical emergency, please call 9-1-1 immediately
  • go to the hospital emergency department and pay attention to special signage

How can I protect myself and my family from contracting COVID-19?

Everyday preventive actions can help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Get a yearly flu vaccination, available from clinics and pharmacies. This is the best way to prevent influenza infection
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Visit elderly, infants, and those with weaker immune systems only when you are healthy.
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Avoid sharing personal items, such as utensils and water bottles.
  • Cough or sneeze into your sleeve or cover your mouth and nose with a tissue and throw the tissue out immediately. Wash your hands afterward.
  • Frequently clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces and shared items using regular household cleaners.
  • If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing call the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit COVID-19 hotline 519-426-6170 EXT 9999.

Should I wear a mask?

For healthy individuals, there is no need to wear a surgical or N95 mask.

If you are healthy, wearing a mask is not helpful at preventing coronavirus infection and instead reduces the supply of masks needed by health care professionals or people who are sick.

Only wear a mask if you are ill with respiratory symptoms or caring for someone who may have symptoms. Disposable face masks are for one time use only.

How do I prepare myself and my family for more time spent at home?

During a pandemic, you will want to spend more time at home. Here are some things to have at home for you and your family. 14 days worth of:

  • Medication and medical supplies/equipment
  • Food for your pets
  • Food that won’t spoil
  • Diapers and infant formula
  • Toiletries and personal hygiene items
  • Hand sanitizer and/or soap
  • Extra glasses or contact lenses
  • Cash
  • Health cards and health information
  • Good sources for news (radio, TV, social media or print news)

How is COVID-19 diagnosed?

It is diagnosed by a healthcare provider based on symptoms, and laboratory tests. If you are tested, a health care provider will swab your nose and throat. International travel history is also important. Mild cold symptoms do not need a laboratory test. If you are experiencing fever, cough or difficulty breathing and have travelled internationally within the past 14 days please call the Haldimand-Norfolk COVID-19 hotline 519-426-6170 EXT 9999 where you will be screened to determine if you meet the criteria to be tested.

Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating COVID-19?

No. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work on bacterial infections. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work. Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment of COVID-19. They should only be used as directed by a physician to treat a bacterial infection.


What is Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit doing in response to this situation?

Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is working with health partners to plan for the potential of local cases. These partners include hospitals, family physicians, emergency response, long term care and others.

Confirmed and suspect cases of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus are now reportable to local health authorities under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.  If Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit receives notification of a case, we will immediately follow up directly with that individual.  This work is part of routine public health follow-up of a case of an infectious disease.

Can my child still attend daycare?

On March 13, 2020, Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, Haldimand-Norfolk Medical Officer of Health announced all licensed daycares are to be closed until April 5, 2020. It is recommended that all private and home daycares also close during this time.

I have an event booked at a community hall, will it be cancelled?

Effective immediately, and further to the recommendation from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Haldimand-Norfolk Medical Officer of Health has ordered the suspension of all public gatherings and all community halls are ordered to be closed in an effort to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Can I visit a long-term care home?

 Visiting restrictions have been placed on all long-term care facilities in Haldimand and Norfolk counties, as recommended by the Ministry of Health.

Only essential visitors will be permitted into long-term care homes until further notice.

The Ministry of Health defines essential visitors as those whose loved one is near end-of-life or who is very ill or a parent/guardian of an ill child or youth in a live-in treatment setting.

These visitors will continue to be screened prior to entering the facility.

Staff will take advantage of technology to ensure loved ones remain connected while visiting is limited.

The restrictions are part of the province-wide effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, a respiratory virus which can be quite serious for the elderly or those with a compromised immune system.

What should I be implementing in my workplace as an employer?

If an employee has had recent travel (within 14 days) internationally (outside of Canada) they are recommended to self-isolate and self-monitor for 14 days after their return (14 days since they came back).

If an employee is feeling unwell, as a general health guideline, the employee should go home and rest up while monitoring their symptoms. It is recommended they do not return to work until they are 24 hours symptom-free.

Please be advised that we are not testing people in good health and are not providing sick notes for employees at this time. We are only testing people who meet case definition, therefore, if they do not meet case definition they will not be tested and cannot provide their employer with a negative test result.

There has been a tool created for employers to utilize for their screening, please see the Information for Employers/Employees in the next dropdown menu you for additional details.

For calls regarding specific COVID19 symptoms/questions please call 519-426-6170 EXT 9999. A nurse will follow up with you as soon as possible to get any questions/concerns addressed.

For information regarding workplaces please refer to the following notice:
For all COVID-19 inquiries related to or regarding Food Premises, Migrant Farms, Special Events, Personal Service Settings, Child Care Centers or Workplaces (non-health care setting) please call the Environmental Health Team hotline at 519-426-6128.

Please continue to monitor the Ministry’s website for updates regarding COVID-19 recommendations.