COVID-19 - As Ontario reopens, learn about public health and workplace safety measures. Learn about the COVID-19 vaccination and service disruptions.

COVID-19 Guidance for the Community

Help Niagara stick it to COVID-19

Through vaccination and other public health measures, we're making progress in ending this pandemic. Thank you to everyone who has taken action to stay safe. You're making a huge difference in protecting yourself, your loved ones and your community. Learn about the provincial status of COVID-19.

Provincial plan to reopen Ontario

The province has announced a plan to safely reopen Ontario and manage COVID-19 for the long-term. This plan outlines when some public health and workplace measures are expected to be lifted.

It's important to know that the dates outlined in the plan may change. The province will look at the current data, such as hospitalizations, when deciding to lift more measures. We must continue to remain vigilant so we don't lose the progress we made in ending this pandemic and to avoid any further disruption to businesses.

Prevent COVID-19

The most important measure keeping our society safer is vaccination. If you haven't already done so, get vaccinated. Also, continue to practise behaviours to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as staying home and getting tested for COVID-19 if you have any symptoms, wearing a face covering and more.

We've learned that some people who are fully vaccinated can still get COVID-19. The good news is that these breakthrough cases are uncommon and when they do happen, they're usually mild. More importantly:

  • Most COVID-19 infections are in unvaccinated people. Cases among fully vaccinated individuals are far less likely.
  • Serious illness, such as needing hospitalization or being on a ventilator, is very rare among fully vaccinated people. Almost all people hospitalized are unvaccinated.

Safe gatherings

We know you want to have safe gatherings with people you don't live with indoors. As we enter the fall and winter months, remember:

  • Gatherings are safest when they're virtual. Gathering outdoors is safer than indoors. The less people who gather, the lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
  • Regardless of setting, you can wear a face covering and physically distance if you feel it's right for you, especially if you or others are immunocompromised or at high-risk of severe disease and/or exposure to COVID-19.
  • It's important to remember that knowing someone doesn't reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19

Together, let's all continue to do our part to end this pandemic and keep Niagara safe, healthy and open.

Frequently asked questions

Prevention

  • What is my personal responsibility to help keep my family and community safe?

    We must all do our part to keep each other, our families and our communities safe. Staying healthy through this pandemic depends on our collective efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

    You may not go into public areas, go for a walk or for a leisurely drive if:

  • Where can I find information about face coverings?
  • Is wearing rubber gloves while out in the public effective in preventing COVID-19?

    No. Regularly washing your bare hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer offers more protection against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.

    You can still pick up COVID-19 contamination on rubber gloves. If you then touch your face, the contamination goes from your glove to your face and can infect you.

    Gloves are recommended for specific situations like caring for sick individuals or to prepare some food safety. If you decide to wear gloves:

    • Clean your hands before putting gloves on and taking them off
    • Don't touch your face with gloves on
    • Don't cover your cough or sneeze into hands with gloves on
    • Gloves should be removed with care to avoid contact with the outside of the gloves
    • Always put gloves and other home health care waste in a plastic lined garbage and tightly tie the bag closed.
  • How long does the coronavirus live on surfaces?

    It's not certain how long COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Preliminary information on COVID-19 suggests that the virus may live on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days depending on:

    • Temperature
    • Type of surface
    • Humidity of the environment

    High touch surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. Clean your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or hand sanitize. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

    Products shipped within or from outside of Canada could also be contaminated. However, because packages usually take days or weeks to be delivered, and are shipped at room temperature, the risk of spread is low. There is no known risk of coronaviruses entering Canada on parcels or packages.

  • Who should self-isolate?
  • Should I avoid contact with pets or other animals if I am sick with COVID-19?
    As a precaution, Public Health Ontario recommends you restrict contact with pets and other animals while you're sick with COVID-19, just like you would other people. This includes petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.

    When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you're sick. Service animals are permitted to remain with their handlers.

    If you're sick with COVID-19 and must care for your pet, wash your hands before and after interacting with your pet(s), and wear a face covering.

  • What if I am caring for someone with COVID-19?

    The only people in the household should be those who are responsible for providing care to the sick person.

    People who are not taking care of the sick person should make arrangements to live somewhere else until the sick person is better. If this is not possible, other people in the home should stay in another room or be separated from the sick person.

    • Take care of yourself. Monitor yourself for any signs of illness, and separate yourself immediately if you're staring to feel sick with a fever, new cough or shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.
    • If you begin having symptoms, contact your health care professional or Niagara Region Info-Line immediately at 905-688-8248 and press 7, then press 2.
    • Clean your hands often. Alcohol-based hand rub / sanitizer is preferred. However, plain soap and water is acceptable if alcohol-based hand rub isn't available. If hands are visibly soiled, clean them with plain soap and water immediately.
    • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE), gloves, mask and eye protection, while providing care or in the same room as the sick person
    • When you walk out of the sick persons' room, remove PPE in this order to reduce the risk of getting germs on your hands or face:
      • Remove gloves, wash your hands.
      • Remove eye protection
      • Remove your mask by holding only onto the ear loops or ties (do not touch the front of the mask that was over your face) and throw your used mask into a covered, plastic lined garbage can and wash your hands
      • Clean eye protection with a cleaner / disinfectant as per manufacturer's instructions or place into a container for later cleaning / disinfection
      • Clean your hands again
  • Is Niagara Region Public Health and Emergency Services contacting the close contacts of Niagara's confirmed cases?
    Yes. Public health professionals are working directly with the close contacts of all laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases in Niagara. They're providing close contacts with medical direction.

    Watch this video where they explain the contact tracing process Public Health performs with every positive COVID-19 case from Dr. Hirji and Sandra, a nurse from the infectious disease program.

  • What healthy habits should I be practising to protect my family from getting germs or spreading germs?
    Everyone should be following these recommendations to protect yourself from COVID-19.

    Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces daily.

School and child care

Travel

Travel outside of Niagara to areas elsewhere in Canada or internationally, especially those with higher spread of COVID-19, should be limited to essential trips. Travel is causing COVID-19 infections in Niagara residents every day. Being fully vaccinated significantly reduces your risk, but doesn't eliminate it. Avoiding travel can help to avoid exposure and spread of COVID-19.

General information

  • What do I need to know about in-person appointments during COVID-19?
    • Make sure you complete COVID-19 screening before visiting your doctor. During screening, tell your doctor if you're experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.
    • Face coverings must be worn at all times. This means from the moment you enter the building, in the exam room and when you exit. Masks should only be removed if directed by your health care provider.
    • Arrive at your appointment on time to ensure smooth flow of patients in and out of the office. Check with your health care provider about specific arrival instructions. If the office has specific rules in place during your visit, it's important that you follow them.
    • Maintain a two metre distance between other patients and health care workers or staff in waiting areas
    • Where possible, try to limit the visit to only the person seeking care and one support person, if needed
    • Remember, restrictions in a doctor's office is different than other settings like restaurants or gyms. Proof of vaccination isn't required to enter the office and masks must be worn at all times.

    For more information on what you need to know when visiting a doctor's office, visit the College of Physicians and Surgeons Ontario COVID-19 frequently asked questions for patients.

  • What do I need to know about variants in Niagara?

    All viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19, mutate over time. A virus with one or more mutations is a variant. Some mutations can change the characteristics '' of a virus, such as how it spreads, making it a variant of concern. COVID-19 variants of concern include:

    • Alpha (B.1.1.7) - first identified in the United Kingdom
    • Beta (B.1.351) - first identified in South Africa
    • Gamma (P.1) - first identified in Brazil
    • Delta (B.1.617) - first identified in India

    You can see Niagara's daily case count for these variants.

    We're concerned about these variants because they:

    • Appear to spread more easily and quickly than other variants
    • Increase risk of severe illness and death

    All variants may increase the risk of re-infection for people who already had COVID-19.

    All Health Canada approved vaccines provide strong protection against COVID-19 and its variants, including the Delta variant.

    Actions you take to prevent COVID-19 will protect you against variants. Get vaccinated and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

  • I had a COVID-19 test, when can I return to work?

    Niagara Region Public Health doesn't recommend that employers require testing or doctor's notes for return to work. Some individuals will continue to test positive for COVID-19 for many months, long after they're no longer contagious.

    For more information, see:

  • Who do I call if I have a concern around the face covering by-law not being followed?
    During normal business hours, concerns around enforcement should be directed to your municipality's by-law office. After 4:30 p.m., please call Niagara Region's dispatch line at 905-984-3690 or 1-877-552-5579. Do not call 911. Regional or local by-law enforcement or Niagara Regional Police Services may respond to reports of significant or ongoing non-compliance.
  • I have a pre-existing health condition (e.g. allergies, asthma, migraines and diarrhea) but my employer has asked me to get tested for COVID-19. What should I do?

    Some of the mild symptoms of COVID-19, such as a runny or congested nose, headaches or diarrhea can be attributed to other pre-existing health conditions.

    It's important to seek guidance from a health care provider or self-refer for testing at a Niagara Health COVID-19 Assessment Centre if you have even one mild symptom associated with COVID-19. There is specific guidance for children with symptoms.

  • How many Niagara residents have been tested for COVID-19?
    In Niagara, we have many health care providers doing COVID-19 testing, and unfortunately, Ontario has no central repository to know exactly how many tests have been done in each local region.

    Niagara Health does the majority of Niagara's COVID-19 testing at their assessment centres. Niagara Health's testing numbers don't account for the testing done by other doctor's offices in our community, for example in:

    • Long-term care homes
    • Retirement homes
    • Hospice care
    • Or by a mobile paramedic team that travels to peoples homes who are unable to visit a testing site

    Also, some Niagara residents seek testing outside of Niagara. For example, West Niagara residents are tested at the Stoney Creek Assessment Centre.

    We work with our health care partners to test anyone who might be a case of COVID-19, even if they have unusual or mild symptoms. We want to find every case of COVID-19 in Niagara so that we can isolate them, isolate their contacts and stop every chain of transmission.

    Community members who have symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate and contact their health care professional or self-refer for testing at an assessment centre. See specific guidance for adults and children with symptoms.

    If there are remaining questions, call our COVID-19 Info-Line to speak with a public health professional by calling 905-688-8248, then press 2.

    Community members who have symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate and contact their health care professional or call our COVID-19 Info-line to speak with a public health professional by calling 905-688-8248 press 7, then press 2.

    For more information about testing in Niagara, we encourage you to watch this video from Dr. Hirji.

  • Am I at risk for COVID-19 from mail, packages or products?
    After collecting mail from a post office or home mailbox, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer. If you want to be extra cautious, retrieve the package / envelope 24 hours after delivery.

    Learn more from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about safe handling of deliveries and mail.

  • I live outside of Niagara. Can you help me?

    We encourage you to call your local public health agency. The COVID-19 recommendations in Niagara may be different from where you live. Recommendations can vary based on the demographics of each region and the Medical Officer of Health leading the COVID-19 response.

  • Why are the COVID-19 numbers reported differently by various sources?
    Results posted by Niagara Health may differ from the results posted on our Niagara Region Public Health COVID-19 webpage or posted by the Ontario Ministry of Health:

    • Due to the time of day when data is reported
    • Statistics reported by Niagara Health are for persons tested by Niagara Health. Their results do not include persons tested elsewhere in Niagara (for example through primary care) and may include persons who reside outside of Niagara
    • Niagara Region Public Health reports only results pertaining to Niagara residents

    Our COVID-19 webpage is updated daily at noon.

  • How do I access my COVID-19 test results?

    For information on how to access your test results, visit testing and lab results for COVID-19 or watch this video to learn how to find your COVID-19 test results.

  • How is COVID-19 transmitted?

    The virus transmits from person to person through coughing and sneezing, just like the common cold or flu.

  • Why is flu activity in Niagara so low?

    Niagara Region Public Health monitors flu (influenza) activity. The number of cases of the flu has remained low so far this year because:

    • The public is getting vaccinated more than in past years
    • People are following the public health measures recommended to slow COVID-19, such as cleaning your hands, physical distancing, and wearing a face covering
    • There's been a dramatic drop in travel

    However, there are also years where we don't see much flu until December or January, so we should all take precautions and remain vigilant to keep flu low while we're busy fighting COVID-19.

  • Does the COVID-19 test detect influenza too?

    Yes, depending on which test is used. Your health care provider will pick the test that's right for your health needs.

    Some of the tests used to detect COVID-19 also detect other respiratory viruses. One of them is influenza, commonly called the flu. Other tests detect only COVID-19.

    Some of the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to the flu, and it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. You may need a COVID-19 test to help confirm a COVID-19 or influenza diagnosis.

    All flu cases and COVID-19 laboratory-confirmed cases are reported on our website.

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