Information for the General Public

This page contains general information and answers to common questions about COVID-19.

Non-medical information about COVID-19 is available 7:30am-8pm, 7 days a week at 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319).

Visit to download the COVID-19 BC Support App or conduct a self-assessment.

The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) is the source of truth for province-wide information, including current COVID-19 case counts

A message of thanks from Island Health President and CEO, Kathy MacNeil

COVID-19 Virtual Townhall

On May 19, Island Health CEO Kathy MacNeil, and Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Richard Stanwick, joined MLAs Norm Letnick and Ronna-Rae Leonard to answer your questions about COVID-19 in our region. Watch the recording of the live-streamed Virtual Townhall below, or on YouTube.


On April 21, Island Health CEO Kathy MacNeil, and Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Richard Stanwick, spoke with local MLAs to answer your questions about COVID-19 in our region. Watch the recording of the live-streamed Virtual Townhall below or on YouTube


Videos from Island Health's Chief Medical Health Officer

Hover over the video to click through and watch the series or visit our COVID-19 showcase on Vimeo.


Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 signs and symptoms, including screening criteria, is available on the BCCDC website at

How can I be tested?

If you develop cold, influenza or COVID-19-like symptoms, use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to help determine if you need further assessment or testing for COVID-19. You can complete this assessment for yourself, or on behalf of someone else, if they are unable to.

If an individual has no symptoms, even if they are a contact of a confirmed case or a returning traveller, they do not require a test.

At this time, any physician or nurse practitioner can order a test for a patient with cold, influenza or COVID-19-like symptoms based on their clinical judgment.

If you do not have a primary care provider  please call Island Health’s Call Centre at 1-844-901-8442 to be assessed to determine if you need testing (with the exception of Mt. Waddington 1-250-902-6091 and Gold River 250-283-2626 ext. 2). Appointments for COVID-19 testing must be pre-booked through a primary care provider or Island Health’s Call Centre. Testing sites are unable to accommodate unscheduled or walk-in visits. Find a testing site, also known as a collection centre, at a location near you.

Island Health asks members of the public to please not go to a hospital emergency department seeking COVID-19 testing. However, people experiencing a medical emergency should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.

Read more about symptoms, testing and isolation.

For more information, please visit the BCCDC webpage on COVID-19 testing.

Who needs to self-isolate?

People returning to BC from travel outside of Canada must stay home for 14 days and provide a self-isolation plan, and people who have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 must stay home for 14 days after their last encounter.

Individuals should monitor themselves daily for symptoms like fever and cough. Those who develop symptoms should stay home and complete the self-assessment at and follow the recommendations provided.

If you develop symptoms, continue to self-isolate for at least 10 days from when your symptoms started OR 14 days from when you started self-isolating, whichever is longer. 

Read more about self-isolation.

What about COVID-19, smoking or vaping? 

People who smoke and vape – even younger people – are at higher risk of more severe illness and complications from COVID-19.
If you smoke or vape, remember to maintain a safe physical distance. Wash your hands well with soap and water before and after smoking or vaping. Do not share your smoking, pipes or vaping materials.

It's a good time to quit smoking and vaping. Get Quit Support at

What do I need to do to reopen my business/organization under the “new normal”?

Every industry or sector is being asked to develop sector standards with health and safety measures appropriate to their areas. Government will work with sector associations to support them in this process.

Those sector standards will be reviewed by WorkSafeBC with input from public health officials. Guidelines and templates will be provided for how businesses can enact these safety measures.

WorkSafeBC will work with industry associations to ensure the direction and guidance they provide to their members meets the requirements set out by the Provincial Health Officer.

For sectors that have been ordered to close, such as personal care services – which includes hair, nail, other aesthetics and tattoo parlours –  this will also require consideration by the Provincial Health Officer and lifting or modifying of those orders before they can re-open.

Finally, each company will need to adapt those guidelines to their own operations and make their own COVID Safe Plan.
Individual businesses will not need to submit their own plans for approval but they must make them available to their workers and their customers by posting on the premises.

WorkSafeBC will have the jurisdiction to ensure a business’ COVID Safe Plan is in place, that it meets sectoral standards and that it is being followed. This will include inspectors visiting worksites across the province.

Learn about B.C.’s Restart Plan
WorksafeBC Returning to Safe Operation

Can gyms reopen at this time?

Island Health’s public health team is actively involved in conversations around considerations to lift the order and allow those businesses to reopen in a safe and consistent way that would minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Gatherings that feature people in close contact with each other – in facilities such as gyms, fitness centres, yoga studios and exercise rooms – can promote the transmission of illness and increase the number of people who develop COVID-19. As a result, Island Health has joined other provincial Health Authorities and issued an Order to close.

Learn about Public Health Orders and Enforcement

How do I protect myself and my family?

Follow the usual recommendations to prevent other common respiratory viruses. 

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. If handwashing facilities are not available, you may use hand sanitizer. 

Follow good respiratory etiquette. Cough or sneeze into your elbow sleeve, dispose of tissues appropriately and immediately wash your hands, avoid touching your face, and avoid contact with sick people to prevent the spread of respiratory illness. 

Stay home if you are sick. 

Will wearing a mask protect me?

Masks are not recommended for people who are well. 

Face masks, when used properly, may have benefits for people experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as a cough, and help reduce the spread of disease.

Homemade masks are not proven to protect you from getting sick, or to protect others from becoming sick. However, homemade masks may not be harmful if you continue to wash your hands frequently, keep two metres or six feet away from others, and stay home if you are sick.

Video: What about homemade masks? 

Can I visit loved-ones in a care facility?

Stay home if you are sick to protect your loved ones.

Island Health has made the difficult decision to allow only essential visits to our facilities. Essential visits will be considered for patients who are critically ill, receiving end-of-life care, frail and need an escort or family member for their safety. This includes our long-term care sites.

For more information, see our detailed visitor restrictions.

How are residents and staff at long-term care sites protected?

Long-term care sites are very closely monitored to protect residents and staff. This includes visitor restrictions and screening of every staff member and essential visitor. 

How can I donate personal protective equipment (PPE) or medical supplies?

Island Health is currently focused on caring for COVID-19 patients in our region. Providing the best and safest care requires proper, medical-grade personal protective equipment (PPE) for our healthcare workers including gloves, masks, gowns, and sanitizer. If you have any PPE available to donate to support care in our community, please help support our COVID-19 response.

Can the virus be transmitted without symptoms?

There is still a lot we are learning about COVID-19. There are reports about the virus spreading in the absence of symptoms. However, evidence shows that the virus is predominately spread through droplets when someone coughs. Washing your hands, keeping two metres or six feet away from others and staying home when you are sick are the best ways to prevent the virus from spreading.

Video: Can the virus be transmitted without symptoms?

Should my child get immunized?

Even though we are in a COVID-19 pandemic, other disease-causing bacteria and viruses may also be circulating. It is critical to continue to immunize our children to protect them from vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccines remain an extremely important, effective and safe way to protect your child and your community against many diseases and their complications.

Island Health continues to provide immunizations for children, in particular for children 6 years of age and under. Our teams are following all provincial recommendations for physical distancing, enhanced cleaning, and screening for symptoms. Please call your local health unit for more information and to book an appointment. 

Video: Should we still get our child immunized?

Updated May22, 2020 at 4:45 p.m.

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