Testing & Treating Patients

Please note that as things change rapidly, Q&As and guidelines will be updated. Review this website often to ensure you have the most up to date information or consult your leader if you have concerns or identify discrepancies. 


What are the symptoms? 

The symptoms of COVID-19, are similar to other respiratory illnesses, including the flu and common cold. They include cough, sneezing, fever, sore throat and difficulty breathing. Any British Columbian who is exhibiting cold, influenza or COVID-like symptoms is now able be assessed for and get a COVID-19 test from a physician, nurse practitioner or local community collection centre.

While testing is now available for those who need it, not everyone needs a test. 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.

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 for COVID-19 testing by a physician, nurse practitioner or at a local collection centre.

For COVID-19 testing locations, as well as additional information and helpful links, please click here.

As of April 8: patients with COVID-19, or a clinical illness compatible with COVID-19, should seek medical care if symptoms do not improve five to seven (5 to 7) days following symptom onset.

Can people without symptoms be contagious? 

There is still a lot we don't know about COVID-19 and there are studies underway to better understand it. There have been a few instances of transmission before the person became sick or the symptoms were so mild that the person did not know they were sick. Those are exceptions as most people became ill from being in close contact with someone who showed symptoms such as coughing and sneezing, therefore transmitting the virus through droplets. This is why B.C. health officials are focused on putting protection around people who are ill and showing symptoms, in order to decrease the spread to others.
If I have symptoms, what should I do? 

If you think you have the symptoms of COVID-19, please stay home. Patients with mild respiratory symptoms (including cold symptoms) should not be tested. COVID-19 presents as a mild illness in the majority of patients. Seek medical assessment if respiratory symptoms worsen.

A self- assessment tool from the Ministry of Health is available at

If you have questions related to COVID-19 you can also call 1-888-268-4319 (1-888-COVID19) between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily.

Should I test all patients with influenza-like illness symptoms for COVID-19? 

As of April 8, any physician can now order a test for COVID-19 based on their clinical judgement.

The Physicians’ Update recommends testing for the following groups if they develop a fever (over 38 degrees Celsius) and new onset (or exacerbation of chronic) cough or shortness of breath: 

  • Health care workers, including community pharmacists
  • Residents of remote, isolated or Indigenous communities
  • People living in congregate settings, such as work camps, correctional facilities, shelters, group homes, assisted living and seniors’ residences
  • People who are homeless or have unstable housing
  • Essential services providers, including first responders
  • Returning travellers identified at a point of entry to Canada

Testing is also recommended for the following groups if they develop any respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms, however mild: 

  • Residents and staff of long-term care facilities
  • Patients requiring admission to hospital or likely to be admitted, including pregnant individuals in their third trimester, patients on hemodialysis, or cancer patients receiving radiation or chemotherapy
  • Patients who are part of an investigation of a cluster or outbreak as determined by the Medical Health Officer
  • People who are asymptomatic should not be tested for COVID-19.
  • Another change to note is that patients with COVID-19, or clinical illness compatible with COVID-19, are being asked to seek medical care if symptoms do not improve 5-7 days following symptom onset.
Will staff be informed if their patient tests positive? 
We will inform all staff who have provided care to a positive patient and ensure that the proper precautions and protocols were following. ​
What do I ​do if I have a patient with a severe respiratory infection?  
PHC staff are encouraged to follow routine clinical practices around all respiratory infections. Please visit this page for more information on triage and assessment.​
How is COVID-19 diagnosed?  
The BCCDC Public Health Laboratory (PHL) has developed laboratory guidance for COVID-19 diagnostic testing. If your health care provider thinks you may have the new coronavirus, they will arrange for testing if warranted.
How do I test f​or coronavirus disease?  
If testing is warranted, please visit this page for more information on the testing process.
How lon​g does it take to get results after we test someone for coronavirus disease?  
The St. Paul’s Hospital Virology Laboratory performs testing for all PHC sites, and results can be expected within 24 hours.
If we do have a confirmed case with a client at work, would PHC increase precautions or take on stricter housekeeping protocols? 
The current standard precautions are sufficient in preventing the spread of the virus. Coronaviruses are susceptible to soap and disinfectants.  Please continue to use routine practices in hospital.

Because it is an envelope virus, the virus likely only survives on surfaces for a matter of hours, similar to other common respiratory viruses. Transmission could occur if people touched contaminated surfaces and then touched their mucous membranes (eyes, nostrils or mouth). That's why avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth along with regular hand washing is the most effective way of preventing spread.​

A health care worker advises you that they had contact with a suspect case while at work and is wondering what the next steps are in the event that this case is confirmed? 
In the event that this is a confirmed case, Public Health will work in collaboration with the Provincial Workplace Health Call Centre (WHCC) to initiate contact tracing of health care workers as per the direction of the Medical Health Officer.  ​
Is there a treatment for COVID-19?
There is no specific treatment for disease caused by COVID-19. Many of the symptoms can be managed with home treatment such as drinking plenty of fluids, rest and using a humidifier or hot shower to ease a cough or sore throat. Most people recover from coronaviruses on their own. For people with more serious illness supportive care in or out of hospital may be needed.
This page last updated May 29, 2020 4:29pm PDT