Even though we’ve seen a significant decrease in the number of newly reported cases of COVID-19 in British Columbia (therefore continuing to flatten the curve, which has allowed our province to slowly reopen in phases), people still have many questions surrounding the virus – and rightfully so. While there are still many unknowns about this disease (such as how, exactly, it made the jump from animals to humans, or how long someone who has been previously diagnosed with the virus might be immune to it), there are certain things we do know, and below you will find more answers to some of your commonly asked questions.

“How do I know if I’ve been exposed to the virus?”
Specific information on COVID-19, such as exact communities it has been found in, has not yet been released to the general public. However, what we do know is that it is in every health region, and our local health officials have urged us to act as though it is in our very own communities and take all precautions necessary to not only prevent us from contracting it, but to prevent us from spreading it to others around us in the event that we have the virus but are still asymptomatic. These precautions include regular hand washing, use of hand sanitizer when soap and water isn’t available, and by practicing physical distancing by keeping at least 2 metres (or 6 feet) apart from others (meaning no large gatherings of any kind.)

Another way you can determine whether or not you’ve been exposed to the virus is if you are a close contact (such as a family member) of someone already diagnosed with COVID-19. If this is the case, you should self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days. As previously mentioned, it is entirely possible to develop the virus while not developing any symptoms of it yourself, or, you may very well develop symptoms, but they will be so mild that you’ll mistake them for a common cold or flu virus. Regardless of how mild your symptoms are, you need to stay home to protect yourself and others.

Our public health officials have also ramped up contact tracing. This is done by obtaining as much information as they possibly can from an infected individual, including names of anyone they’ve come into recent contact with, public places they’ve gone (i.e. shopping malls, grocery stores), etcetera. Contact tracing is done to not only keep the contacts of the infected individuals safe, but to protect communities as a whole, and will also help to prevent a resurgence of the virus.

“How do I know if I’m at risk?”
There are certain groups of individuals who are at greater risk of developing the virus compared to others. For example, if you are age 65 or older, have underlying health issues (such as a respiratory condition (i.e. asthma or COPD), diabetes, high blood pressure, are overweight, have heart disease, or are immunocompromised.) That being said, we should all treat COVID-19 as if we are all susceptible to it, as it can affect anyone.

“If fall under one of the at-risk categories, what can I do to protect myself?”
If you’re someone who has a chronic medical condition, you should avoid frequent trips outside of your home (unless absolutely necessary – and wear a mask if you do need to go out briefly) and find someone (such as a friend or family member) who can do grocery and pharmacy runs for you – and, as mentioned time and time again, hygiene (hand washing) is also crucial.

“Can children develop COVID-19?”
While children are typically at lesser risk for COVID-19, there have been some cases reported. We’ve also seen cases reported around other parts of the world (such as the United States and Europe) where children are also developing a Kawasaki-like syndrome in which they develop troublesome symptoms including inflammation of the blood vessels in addition to stomach pain, vomiting, rash, and fever.

This is something that our pediatricians, healthcare providers and health officials are keeping a close eye on.

“Is it safe to send my child back to school in June?”
Now that phase 2 of British Columbia’s restart plan has gone into effect, many businesses are reopening. Also included in phase 2 of this plan are B.C. schools – and, beginning June 1st, our children will have the opportunity to return to the classroom for the few weeks that are left remaining in the school year. However, this will be a voluntary, part-time basis, and the number of students allowed in a building/class at one time will be limited. For example, elementary schools will only operate at 50% capacity, while middle/secondary schools will be at 20%.

For more information on the plan to restart our schools, click here.