Novel Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions
Novel Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions
What is the coronavirus?
On December 31, 2019, cases of undiagnosed viral pneumonia were first reported by health authorities in Wuhan City, Hubei Province in China. The cause was confirmed as a novel (new) coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, which has not previously been identified in humans. On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Global Health Emergency due to the potential global impact that the 2019-nCoV may have on developing countries. The risk of contracting the virus in Canada remains low.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that originate in animals but are known to cause respiratory illness in humans, particularly during the fall and winter months. Human coronaviruses are common and can range from mild illnesses such as the common cold, to severe illnesses.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Symptoms of the novel coronavirus range from common to severe respiratory illnesses and include fever, cough or difficulty breathing, or any combination of these signs – signs that are similar to seasonal influenza.
What are my chances of getting the coronavirus?
The risk to Toronto residents remains low at this time. Toronto Public Health continues to actively monitor the situation in collaboration with provincial and national health agencies, the World Health Organization, and stakeholders that include local hospitals, airports and community agencies.
Toronto Public Health confirms that the WHO declaration has little impact on its daily operations and that risk in Ontario, and Canada overall, remains low, and that we are not in a Pandemic situation.
As of January 31, only two Canadian patients have been hospitalized for 2019-nCoV, and they have both been discharged. The criteria for being discharged is two negative tests at least 24 hours apart. There have been four confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV in Canada; none are currently hospitalized and they are all self-isolating.
**NEW** I recently returned from a visit to Hubei Province in China. Should I attend class?
Students who have recently travelled to Hubei Province are being asked to avoid public areas, including the College, limiting contact with others until 14 days after they have left the affected area. Students should remain at home and contact their professors to advise them how long they will remain in self-isolation. Students should be prepared to provide proof of travel to the affected region, the date they returned to Canada and advise the day their self-isolation ends. Professors should provide students with academic flexibility during this time of self-isolation, and students should make every effort to keep up with their coursework. Students may return to class after the 14-day period if they are not showing any symptoms of COVID-19 or any other illness. (For symptoms, see the second question in this series.)
What is the College doing to reduce the chance of the virus spreading on campus?
The College is instituting additional cleaning protocols in high-touch areas, i.e., door handles, washrooms. We have also increased our monitoring of the hand sanitization stations installed throughout the campus, to ensure they remain topped up. In addition, we have posted information online, sent emails and posted signs throughout the campus reminding staff and students how to avoid getting sick during the flu season; we continue to post updates.
As of now, the risk of contacting the coronavirus remains low and all classes and College operations continue as scheduled. Should circumstances change, the College will follow recommendations from public health authorities and advise the university community promptly.
How can I best protect myself from getting the flu or coronavirus?
As during any flu season, the campus community is asked to follow the usual best practices:
- Get a flu shot
- Wash your hands often with soap and water
- Use the hand sanitizer stations posted throughout the campus
- Cover your sneeze or cough with a tissue, then place the tissue in the garbage and wash your hands, or cough/sneeze into your elbow
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth without first washing your hands
- Avoid sharing personal items that come into contact with saliva such as toothbrushes, eating utensils drinks/water bottles and towels
- If you are displaying flu symptoms, please stay home and contact your care provider
- Keep a safe barrier (3 feet) from anyone displaying flu-like symptoms
Why should I get the flu shot when it doesn’t protect me from the novel coronavirus?
You are much more likely to get a flu that is not the novel coronavirus. The 2019-20 flu shot contains a number of antigens that stimulate an immune response to the most commonly expected viruses for the current flu season. If you have flu-like symptoms, your doctor will ask you if you have had this year’s flu shot. This will help them quickly rule out viruses included in the 2019-20 flu shot.
It’s not too late to get your flu shot. If you have a provincial health card, you can get your free flu shot from a doctor or nurse practitioner, at some local public health units, or at participating pharmacies. International students can get a free flu shot by visiting a local community health centre, including:
Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigration Healthcare, 4158 Sheppard Avenue East, 647-267-2176, by appointment Tuesdays and Thursdays
TAIBU Community Health Centres, 27 Tapscott Road, Unit 1, (416) 644-3536
What should I do if I have flu-like or cold symptoms?
The novel coronavirus shares symptoms with the common cold and seasonal influenza. If you are experiencing symptoms of severe respiratory illness including fever, cough or difficulty breathing, or any combination of these signs – you should self-isolate. Avoiding public transit, public areas and school as much as possible.
Should you experience these symptoms AND have recently travelled internationally to an affected region, or been in close contact with someone who has, you should avoid interaction with others and contact your health care professional. Before attending a clinic, advise them of your symptoms and travel history before you head into the clinic.
If you don’t have a health care provider, contact an Ontario Community Health Centre.
If you have concerns about possible exposure or symptoms of the novel coronavirus, you can call the Toronto Public Health hotline 426-338-7600 for further advice.
I see some people wearing a mask. Are they sick? Should I be wearing a mask to class?
It is common in some cultures to wear a mask during an influenza outbreak and sometimes throughout the flu season. Do not assume that a person wearing a surgical mask is ill. We ask that you be respectful of individual choices. Wearing a surgical mask will prevent you from passing on a virus to others, but it will not protect you from contagions.
The coronavirus has got me worried about my health. Who can I talk to?
We understand that some people will find the continual news about the coronavirus, including intentionally false news, can be overwhelming. If you feel stressed during this time and are a:
- Student, you can reach out to one of the College’s counsellors working in the Centre for Accessible Learning and Counselling Services (CALCS).
- Employee, you can reach out to the College’s Employee Assistance Program (Morneau Shepell)
I’ve read online that the coronavirus is a lot worse than officials are reporting. How can I know what is and isn’t true?
Avoid reading fake news. The College will continually update its website and provide the College community with the most reliable and current information from official providers including city, provincial and federal health agencies and the World Health Organization.
If you want to read more on your own, follow credible online resources only. We suggest:
What should I do if I travelled to Hubei Province, China and develop symptoms of the COVID19 infection?
If you have travelled to Hubei Province, China and develop symptoms of 2019 novel coronavirus, avoid contact with others (e.g., self-isolate) and follow up with your health care provider as soon as possible.
Call your healthcare provider prior to your visit and let them know about your travel history and symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, difficulty breathing) so that they can make special arrangements to see you quickly, provide testing, and ensure that they use proper infection control measures.
During your visit, tell your healthcare provider:
- Your symptoms
- Where you have been travelling (and dates of travel) or living
- If you have had direct contact with animals (e.g., visited a live animal market)
If you have had close contact with a sick person, especially if they have had fever, cough or difficulty breathing