This page contains general information and answers to common questions about COVID-19.
- Find information about Island Health’s COVID-19 vaccine program
- Find information about symptoms and testing
- Find information about isolation practices
- Find current case counts, outbreaks and exposures
Non-medical questions about COVID-19: 7:30am-8pm, daily at 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319).
COVID-19 Terms & Definitions
A case is an individual with a lab-confirmed COVID-19 infection.
An outbreak is declared when a certain number of people who share a common space are diagnosed with COVID-19 within a 14-day period. Usually a Medical Health Officer will declare an outbreak so that specific actions can be taken to prevent further spread of the disease.
In Long Term Care facilities – an outbreak is declared when one person (staff or resident) is a confirmed COVID-19 case.
In Schools – an outbreak is considered as multiple confirmed cases within a 14-day period, with evidence of ongoing transmission occurring within the school and the school medical health officer has determined exceptional measures are required to prevent further transmission of COVID-19.
Island Health will provide updates on the locations and times of known possible public exposures to COVID-19 in our region when we have been unable to reach or identify all individuals potentially exposed via contact tracing.
If you are a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case, Public Health will contact you directly to let you know.
In Schools – an exposure is a single person with lab-confirmed COVID-19 infection (case) who attended school/work during their infectious period (48 hours prior to symptoms).
- Close contact
Spending 15 minutes or more within six feet of someone with COVID-19 is considered a close contact.
This is cumulative, meaning being near someone on multiple occasions for a few minutes at a time can also increase your exposure.
In Schools – a cluster is two or more confirmed cases within a 14-day period, with evidence of ongoing transmission occurring within a school setting and the school medical health officer has determined exceptional measures are required to prevent further transmission of COVID-19.
COVID-19 Frequently asked questions
Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 signs and symptoms, including screening criteria, is available on the BCCDC website at www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19.
- Are COVID-19 vaccines available?
Yes. Visit our COVID-19 Vaccine page for information about who is currently eligible, how to register and more.
- Do Vancouver Island residents have any restrictions on travel or gatherings?
- Province-wide restrictions are currently in effect. All individuals, places of work and businesses in B.C. must significantly reduce social interactions and travel. Find the provincial orders on the BC Government website.
- How can I get the gargle test?
Individuals (ages 4+) with COVID-19 symptoms can be tested using a gargle test or a nasopharyngeal swab. Both are good options and will tell you if you have COVID-19. The gargle test method involves swishing and gargling sterile salt water and spitting it into a collection tube. Before calling to book an appointment, please use the self-assessment tool at bc.thrive.health to determine if you or your child needs a COVID-19 test. If a test is recommended, call 1-844-901-8442 to book an appointment (daily 8:30 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.).
Read more about gargle testing.
- How can I be tested?
If you develop cold, influenza or COVID-19-like symptoms, or you think you may have been exposed to someone who is COVID-19 positive, call Island Health’s Call Centre at 1-844-901-8442 to book an appointment for testing.
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.
Please not go to a hospital emergency department seeking COVID-19 testing. Read more about symptoms, testing and isolation.
For more information, please visit the BCCDC webpage on COVID-19 testing.
- Does my child need a doctor's note to return to school?
No, children do not require a health-care provider note (i.e. a doctor’s note) to confirm they can return to school. A health-care provider's note is not required to confirm the health status of any individual, beyond those required to support medical accommodation as per usual practices.
See the K-12 guidance document for schools.
- 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 https://covid19.thrive.health/ 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.
Learn more about isolation protocols.
- I don’t have symptoms, but I want a test before I travel. What can I do?
British Columbians should avoid all non-essential travel at this time. Stay local and travel only when needed. If you need to travel, follow the same public health guidance you use at home to prevent COVID-19.
There are some private pay clinics that offer testing for a fee to people who require asymptomatic testing for reasons that fall outside of B.C. public health recommendations such as for travel or employment. Find a list on the BCCDC website.
If you have to travel internationally, please check with the embassy in the country where you will be travelling for full details on COVID-19 requirements. In many cases, if you are not able to test prior to travel, you will have an option to follow self-isolation measures on arrival or get tested at you destination, or both.
Find more information about travel on the BCCDC website.
- Who can I contact about people who are not following self-isolation rules?
As of March 25, 2020, by Emergency Order under the Quarantine Act it is mandatory for any person entering Canada by air, sea or land to self-isolate for 14 days whether or not they have symptoms of COVID-19. There are some individuals who are exempt from this order to provide essential services. Spot checks will be conducted by the Government of Canada to verify compliance.
Other individuals who are required to self-isolate include those who are a confirmed case of COVID-19 or a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19. These individuals are monitored by Public Health, both their health and their activities. If people do not voluntarily self-isolate, Public Health can use legal powers under B.C.’s Public Health Act to ensure that self-isolation occurs.
RCMP will follow up with travellers by phone or site visit to ensure individuals are following their approved self-isolation plans. If the RCMP have indicated they will not follow-up, you can send the details to the following two email addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org Or email@example.com. Additionally, complaints can be send to the CBSA Border Watch Line at 1-888-502-9060.
- How do I protect myself and my family?
The best way to protect ourselves, our families and communities is to:
- Wear a 3-ply cloth or non-medical grade mask when in all indoor public spaces, such as shopping malls, grocery stores, community centres and on public transportation.
- Good hand hygiene (wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer) is the single most effective and preferred way of reducing the spread of infection.
- Do not touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
- Do not share food, drinks, utensils, etc.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Are face masks required?
As outlined in the mask mandate order, a 3-ply cloth or non-medical grade mask is required for everyone in all public indoor settings. A face shield is not a substitute for a mask as it has an opening below the mouth.
All Island Health facilities require masks – and medical grade masks will be provided where required.
There are exemptions for:
• People with health conditions or with physical, cognitive or mental impairments who cannot wear one
• People who cannot remove a mask on their own
• Children under the age of 12
Learn more about this public health order.
- Can the virus be transmitted without symptoms?
Yes. COVID-19 is mainly spread by liquid droplets that come out of the mouth and nose when a person with the virus breathes, coughs, sneezes, talks, or sings. Learn more about how COVID-19 is spread, droplet sizes and ways to reduce transmission.
Some people who have COVID-19 may not have (or may never develop) symptoms, but they can still shed the virus. Most people become ill from being in close contact with someone who shows symptoms such as coughing and sneezing.
- Can I visit my grandmother in Long-Term Care (or Assisted Living)?
Visitor restrictions are in place for all Island Health facilities. On April 1st – the Visitor Policy for long-term care and seniors’ assisted living facilities was updated to support safe, meaningful visits while adhering to infection prevention & control requirements. Get more information about visitation expectations before you try to visit on our Long-Term Care and Assisted Living Social Visiting Information page.
Can I visit my relative/loved-one who is currently in hospital?
To support physical distancing in our hospitals, and to protect Island Health patients, clients staff and visitors from the transmission of COVID-19, the province made the difficult decision to allow only essential visits to all B.C. acute health-care facilities during the pandemic.
Learn more about essential visits by reading our latest update.
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.
Last update: January 7, 2021 at 2:30 p.m.