As the COVID-19 outbreak evolves, our commitment to caring for our members has never been more important. In these unpredictable times, our providers are here for you, working tirelessly to ensure that your questions are answered and your needs are resolved.
Canada Medical Director
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus. People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported—from mild symptoms to severe illness.
The virus can spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing or through infected hard surfaces, but infected and infectious individuals can sometimes also have no symptoms of which they are aware. You may be at greater risk if you have recently lived or travelled in an area where there are higher rates of new cases or if you have come in contact with someone who has the virus.
About 35%-40% of people who have COVID-19 are asymptomatic. This means that the virus can easily be spread to others inadvertently, which is why it is so important to follow the guidelines put in place when outdoors or in places of business.
Children of all ages can get COVID-19, although it is a small percentage of cases, and they appear to be affected less commonly than adults. The vast majority of children have very mild or no symptoms; about half do not have fever or cough. With that said, a small percentage of children, teens and young adults (estimated to be less than 5% of COVID-19 cases) can have severe symptoms and require supportive care delivered in a hospital setting.
While COVID-19 is mild in children, a new rare syndrome is being seen in children called multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). This syndrome is likely related to COVID-19 and is seen several weeks after the COVID-19 infection (or weeks after an outbreak in a geographic area). Although the condition is rare, MIS-C can cause children to become very ill with dangerous swelling (inflammation) in the body and can lead to problems with the heart or other organs. Most children can recover with treatment, but it may require a hospital stay.
Parents should watch for persistent fever (greater than three days), nausea/vomiting/abdominal pain, conjunctivitis, a rash that can appear blotchy on the torso or arms/legs as well as redness around the mouth (strawberry-colored tongue/red, swollen and cracked lips) and lethargy.
Parents should not be afraid to take their child to their family physician or pediatrician or seek in-person care if they are worried their child is sick. And, of course, make sure they are keeping up on their well-child visits and vaccinations. The diseases prevented with vaccines are much more severe in children than COVID-19, so we want to make sure to protect children from those diseases as well.
Getting care and guidance from the comfort of your own home can put your mind at ease and help you avoid longer wait times in doctors’ offices and the ER, which can carry many germs. Our providers can evaluate your risk level and advise you on next steps.
While there is no treatment for COVID-19, people who are mildly ill may be able to isolate and care for themselves at home.
For cases where in‐person care is needed, we will navigate patients to appropriate resources and encourage patients to “let them know before you go” so that the in-person care facility can direct them appropriately and minimize potential exposure for others.
We are partnering with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in the United States as well as regional and local health officials globally (including in Canada) as well as with our health system partners to provide our communities with the support, information and care they need.
If you have a fever or feel feverish, have cold-like symptoms or flu-like symptoms, or feel run-down, you should contact us. If you are experiencing shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, then you should call your local doctor’s office to request an in-person visit. Shortness of breath—having trouble breathing—is a more severe symptom that requires an in-person evaluation.
The fastest way to receive care is to request a visit on the mobile app or online. If you’re a new member, set up your account and complete a brief health history.
Also called serology tests, these tests check your blood for antibodies, which show if you had a previous infection of the virus. Even if you were never diagnosed or experienced symptoms of COVID‐19, this test can help determine if you may have been previously infected with the virus.
Given that a large percentage of infected individuals only develop mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, antibody testing can help public health experts and epidemiologists to better understand how many people have already had the disease and what percentage of people infected with COVID‐19 become severely ill.
There is no scientific evidence to confirm whether antibodies mean you have immunity and are protected from re‐infection. Regardless of antibody test results, you should continue to take precautions to protect yourself and others.
People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. Do not go to work, school or public areas. Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing or taxis. Call your primary care provider or the ER if your illness worsens.
Here are some helpful links:
Our recommendation is that you stay at home until newly infected cases are on a decline for 14 days. Ideally, your local community has a positive test rate of less than 5%; that is, of all the people tested in your community, less than 5% are positive for COVID-19, which indicates low community spread of the COVID-19 virus. The reason for declining cases and/or low positivity rates is that public health systems can start to quickly identify new cases and do contact tracing to prevent further spread. The challenge is that one area may have a decline, while a neighboring area may not have met the criteria for declining cases. And, if one area opens up while the neighboring area does not, you still have issues with people travelling between areas and being a source of COVID-19 spread.
As you evaluate going out in public again, our advice is to be conservative. Go slow with decisions about reentering into day care, school and other basic public areas. It will take about two to four weeks or more to see how COVID-19 spreads after an area makes a change. To assess your own situation, you can ask yourself these questions:
Masks are one of the single best protective measures that we can all take for COVID-19—to keep ourselves and those we love safe. Wearing a mask that is properly fitted and extends over your nose and under your chin with no gaps protects you and others from becoming infected or spreading the COVID-19 virus. A good reason to wear a mask when you’re in public settings, especially indoors, is because you could be someone who has the virus but doesn’t have symptoms, which means you could inadvertently spread it to others. We now know that a large proportion of COVID-19 transmissions are from people who had no symptoms when they infected others.
Social distancing is intentionally increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Social distancing works because COVID-19 is mainly spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. Being two metres or more apart protects you and others from being exposed to respiratory droplets. Washing your hands frequently and disinfecting high-touch surfaces also greatly reduces the risk of spread. This is why events are being cancelled, people are being asked to work from home or avoid public/crowded areas, and why face masks are now recommended.
When new, contagious outbreaks like COVID-19 occur, practices like social distancing have become one of the simplest and most effective measures communities can take to avoid exposure as well as spreading the virus.
COVID-19's incubation period could last up to 14 days, which means you could be carrying the virus to others and not be aware of symptoms until later.
The more we practice social distancing (i.e., working from home, remaining two metres apart from people in any public setting and avoiding heavily public areas or events), the more likely we are to avoid the spread and shorten the period of time we must be out of our normal routine.
Another significant reason social distancing should be exercised is for those who have weakened or compromised immunities. People with diabetes, cancer, respiratory issues and other specific diseases or disorders can't afford to get COVID-19.
Implementing all of these tips and recommendations combined can help you stay safe:
Stay at home as much as possible, and refrain from socializing or social events. It’s important that you avoid risking exposure and spreading the virus, especially if you have family members at home who are more vulnerable. By practicing social distancing and following hand-washing, cough etiquette, and disinfecting high-touch surfaces, you will likely avoid the virus.
Be mindful of your community's positivity rate. As communities go above a 5% positivity rate (5% of all people who are getting testing for COVID-19 in your area are positive for COVID-19), your community is starting to see outbreaks. You should consider less-risky activities when your community spread is rising. See a handy chart of activities by risk level here.
Also, seek out testing for COVID-19, especially if you feel you may have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19. Testing will allow your community’s disease detectives to quickly find the main sources of COVID-19 transmission and help those individuals stay at home. Working with public health case tracers will help stop the spread of COVID-19 sooner, so we can all get back to some sort of new normal.
Note: Your local public health disease detectives and case tracers are there to help get your community back to a low rate of COVID-19, so we can all get back to school and work and other safe activities during this COVID-19 outbreak. Public health disease detectives won’t judge or blame; they just want to help the community stop the spread of COVID-19. Help public health in your community by working with your public health disease detectives to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Cleaning and sanitizing your household are important to help prevent the spread of illness and disease.