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Many people have had questions about COVID-19 and we would like to address some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) to hopefully help you better understand what it is and what to do regarding the unprecedented situation.

Q1. What is COVID-19?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause respiratory illness in people, ranging from mild common colds, to sever pneumonia. COVID-19 is what is called a Novel Coronavirus. Novel Coronaviruses are new strains of the virus that have not been previously identified in humans. This means that people have no immunity against it, and it has no specific vaccine or treatment.

Q2. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The most common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • A new cough or a chronic cough worsening
  • New or worsening shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose

Additional symptoms can include

  • Stuffy nose
  • Painful swallowing
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Feeling unwell in general, or new fatigue or sever exhaustion
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or unexplained loss of appetite)
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste
  • Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye

Most people recover from this disease without needing special treatment. However, it can cause serious illness. Those who are older, and those with other medical problems are more likely to develop serious illness, which can include

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pneumonia
  • Death in severe cases

Q3. How is COVID-19 spread from person to person?
It is transmitted person-to-person through the spread by droplets, like from a cough or sneeze, talking, laughing, and singing. Also from touching contaminated objects or surfaces, then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. It is not airborne and cannot spread through the air over long distances or periods of time, like the measles. Studies suggest that the virus generally only survives for a few hours on a surface, though it may be possible for it to survive several days under ideal conditions. People who have COVID-19 can spread it to others before they start to feel sick or even if they never develop symptoms. However, the highest risk of spreading it is from people who have symptoms like a cough or a runny nose.

Q4. Who is most at risk for becoming very sick with COVID-19?
Although most people who develop COVID-19 will experience mild illness, some individuals are more likely to become seriously ill. Older adults and people with medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease appear to be at higher risk.

Q5. If people are immune compromised, what should they do?
Stay home. Now is the time to stay home and avoid social and non-essential outings. If you must leave your home, make sure you practice proper physical distancing. Wear a mask in public when it is difficult to maintain 2 metres apart at all times. Masks should be used in addition to other public health measures to limit the spread.

  • Wash your hands using an alcohol-based rub or soap with warm water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched
  • When sick, cover your cough and sneezes with your arm, and then wash your hands
  • Call 911 if you become seriously ill and need immediate medical attention

Q6. How is COVID-19 treated?
Most people with mild illness will recover on their own. Although there are no specific medications for COVID-19 at this time, supportive care is being used to treat people with COVID-19. The Alberta health care system is able to provide effective care for people who develop a serious COVID-19 illness.

Q7. What is the difference between COVID-19 and influenza?
In some ways, COVID-19 is similar to influenza:

  • Both cause respiratory disease in people who get sick
  • They are spread the same way, via small droplets from the nose and mouth
  • Neither one is spread through the air over long distances or periods of time

However there are some key differences between them:

  • We currently have no specific vaccine or treatment for COIVD-19. A new vaccine for influenza is developed each year to protect against the latest influenza strains.
  • COVID-19 causes severe disease in a higher percentage of cases than seasonal influenza. Estimates of mortality in COVID-19 cases depend on many things, but on average they range from about 3-4 deaths per 100 people infected. By comparison, seasonal influenza is deadly in about 1 in every 1000 who are infected.

Q8. Are there vaccines to prevent COVID-19?
Not yet. Much research is currently underway to develop a vaccine, but it could take some time before a vaccine is developed and approved for use in Canada.

Q9. How can I protect myself and my family from COVID-19?
Refer to the bullet list in Q5.

Q10. When should I go to the doctor?
Call 911 if you are seriously ill and need immediate medical attention. However if you do not need medical attention and think you may have COVID-19, you can call your doctor or 811 for virtual health assessment and referral.

Q11. Should I be tested for COVID-19?
Testing is available to all Albertans, even if they don’t have symptoms. First complete the online assessment to see if it is suggested. You may either book online to be tested for free by AHS, or you can come into Pharmasave Valleyview for a free test*.
*Note: Testing is available at specific Pharmasave Alberta locations only. If Pharmasave Valleyview is not your local store, call your local Pharmasave for information about their services before visiting.

Q12. When am I legally required to isolate?
When you:

  • Test positive for COVID-19
  • have a cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose, or sore throat that is not related to a pre-existing condition
  • you have been in contact in the last 14 days with someone known to have COVID-19
  • you have traveled outside of Canada within the last 14 days

Q13. I have tested positive for COVID-19. What do I do?
You are legally required to isolate for 10 days or until the symptoms are gone (whichever is longer). Follow the suggested guidelines, only leave if you are in need of immediate medical attention, and avoid contact with people including family members. If you are in need of assistance, call 811 and they can give you further tips and information.

Q14. I have tested negative for COVID-19. What do I do?
You do not need to isolate. Continue to follow good respiratory etiquette, hand hygiene, and practice physical distancing. If you tested negative but have been in contact with someone who tested positive, or you have returned from travel outside of Canada, you must STILL isolate for the full 14 days since contact or return from travel.

Q15. What does asymptomatic testing reveal?
It can only determine whether a person has COVID-19 at the time of testing. It cannot determine whether someone has previously had COVID-10. Results will be provided by phone within a few days of testing. AHS will complete the Public Health follow-up on all cases and their close contacts.

Q16. What should I do if I have symptoms and think I have COVID-19?
You MUST isolate. Visit www.ahs.ca/covid to book an appointment online for testing, or call 811 to book an appointment to be tested. Please DO NOT visit a hospital, physician’s office, lab or healthcare facility without consulting your doctor or Health Link (811) first. Call 911 if you need medical attention and inform them that you may have COVID-19.

Q17. Should I wear gloves when outside my house or in public places?
Gloves do not need to be worn by members of the general public during their daily activities. They can create a false sense of security and if not used and disposed of properly, can actually provide another surface for the virus to live on. Gloves are NOT a substitute for proper hand hygiene. For those who choose to wear gloves, proper glove use MUST be practiced.

  • Wash hands before putting on gloves and after taking them off
  • Change gloves once current pair is soiled or torn. Also change them if you cough, sneeze, or touch your face with them
  • Do not reuse disposable gloves
  • Reusable gloves must be cleaned and disinfected after each use

Q18. Should I wear a mask when outside my house or in public places?
Albertans are encouraged to wear masks in public when it’s difficult to maintain physical distancing of 2 metres at all times. Wearing non-medical masks has not been proven to protect the person wearing it, however it may be helpful in protecting those around you. Because face coverings are another way to cover your mouth and nose, this may prevent respiratory droplets from contaminating other people or surfaces. Additionally, wearing a mask may stop you from touching your nose and mouth. If you choose to wear a mask ensure that it is well fitted, assume that it is contaminated on the outside, wash your hands prior to putting it on, and as soon as you take it off. If it is damp, take it off and store in a plastic bag until it can be cleaned, and carry several with you. If you do choose to wear a mask it is critical that used masks be carefully handled to avoid spreading infection to others.

Q19. My loved one has or is being tested for COVID-19 and we live in the same house. How can I take care of them and not get sick myself?
Here are some tips if you are living with someone who is being tested for COVID-19:

  • Try to ensure that the ill person has a designated bedroom and bathroom
  • Maintain physical distance from them as much as possible
  • Visitors should not come to the home
  • Do not allow the ill person to prepare meals for others, and ensure that the ill person uses a separate preparation area or at least prepares meals at a different time, washing all surfaces after
  • Avoid sharing household items like dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels and pillows
  • Wash your hands frequently, with soap and warm water
  • Frequently sanitize all surfaces
  • Advise them to cover their coughs and sneezes with their arm and not their hand
  • Monitor yourself for symptoms and call 811 or your doctor for assessment and advice if you have symptoms

Q20. Can I go with a loved one to Urgent Care or to the Emergency Department?
Yes. In Ambulatory Clinics patients may identify one designated family/support person to accompany them. All support persons must be over the age of 24 for adult clinic visits. If visiting the Alberta Children’s Hospital or the Stollery Children’s Hospital, the designated family/support person must be 18 years of age or older.

Q21. Can I visit a loved one in the hospital?
Inpatients may identify two designated family/support persons that are permitted if the room is large enough for physical distancing to be maintained. There are a few exceptions which include: Maternity and postpartum, pediatrics, adults with disabilities and end-of-life situations. To get more detailed information about visitations and exceptions visit https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/topics/Page17001.aspx

Q22. What do I do if I am returning to Alberta from outside of Canada?
The government has implemented a mandatory 14-day quarantine, under the Quarantine Act, for travelers returning to Canada. You should also make safe arrangements to be tested for COVID-19. If you have need of immediate medical attention, call 911 and inform them that you may have COVID-19.

Q23. Am I allowed to travel outside the province?
Responsible travel within Alberta is permitted however non-essential travel outside the province is not recommended. The Canada/US border also remains closed to non-essential travel.

Q24. Is there an app that can let me know if I’ve been exposed to COVID-19?
ABTraceTogether is a mobile tracing app that can help identify if you’ve been exposed to, or if you’ve exposed others, to COVID-19. ABTraceTogether uses your phone’s Bluetooth to keep an anonymous log of other app users you’ve been in close contact with.