COVID Basics

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 is coronavirus/COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found mostly in animals. In humans, they can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). The new coronavirus has been named COVID-19.

Anyone concerned that they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the novel coronavirus, should contact their primary care provider, local public health office, or call 8-1-1.

The Province has created 1 888 COVID-19 to connect British Columbians needing non-medical information about COVID-19. This includes the latest information on travel recommendations and social distancing, as well as access to support and resources from the provincial and federal governments. 1-888-COVID-19 is available seven days a week, from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. in 110 languages. The 8-1-1 number is also in place for medical-related COVID-19 questions.

What we know:

On December 31, 2019, health authorities in Wuhan, China, reported a cluster of atypical viral pneumonia cases associated with stallholders at a market selling seafood and live animals in the city.

On January 9, 2020, the World Health Organization reported the cases were linked to a new type of novel coronavirus. The WHO has officially named the illness from this virus coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The number of cases linked to this outbreak is changing quickly and public health authorities are monitoring the situation closely.

The spectrum of illness has been mostly mild to moderate, with a few experiencing more critical illness.

Check the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) bulletins on emerging respiratory viruses for current information. General information on the Coronavirus Disease is also available from the BCCDC. Check the World Health Organization website for situation updates on Coronavirus Disease.

How is coronavirus transmitted? 

Coronavirus is spread from an infected person through:

  • Droplets spread when a person coughs or sneezes
  • Close personal contact such as touching or shaking hands
  • The virus is not known to be airborne (e.g. transmitted through the particles floating in the air) and it is not something that comes in through the skin.
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands 

What is the difference between droplet contact and airborne transmission? 

Droplet Contact:  Some diseases can be transferred by large infected droplets contacting surfaces of the eye, nose, or mouth. For example, large droplets that may be visible to the naked eye are generated when a person sneezes or coughs. These droplets typically spread only one to two metres and are too large to float in the air (i.e. airborne) and quickly fall to the ground. Influenza and SARS are two examples of diseases capable of being transmitted from droplet contact. Currently, health experts believe that coronavirus can also be transmitted in this way.

Airborne transmission:  This occurs when much smaller evaporated droplets or dust particles containing the microorganism float in the air for long periods of time. Transmission occurs when others breathe the microorganism into their throat or lungs.  Examples of diseases capable of airborne transmission include measles, chickenpox and tuberculosis.  Currently, health experts believe that coronavirus cannot be transmitted through airborne transmission. 

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.

The public is asked to use the self-assessment tool to see if they need testing:

If you have symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat or sneezing, avoid contact with others and self-isolate at home for at least 10 days.  While at home, take care of yourself by drinking lots of water and getting plenty of rest. After 10 days, if your temperature is normal and you feel better, you can return to your routine activities. Coughing may persist for several weeks, so a cough alone does not mean you need to continue to self-isolate for more than 10 days.

If your symptoms worsen, for example you have mild shortness of breath, contact your health care provider or HealthLinkBC (8-1-1) at any time. If you are going to visit your health care provider, call them ahead of time so they can arrange for you to be assessed safely. Wear a mask in order to protect others.

If your symptoms are severe, such as difficulty breathing (e.g. struggling to breathe or speaking in single words) or chest pain, call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest Emergency Department.

Can you get sick from people who are asymptomatic (early stage of being sick before they show symptoms of infection)?
According to the BCCDC, there have been instances of transmission before the person became sick or when a person's symptoms were so mild that they did not know they were sick. However, it is unclear if this contributes to significant spread of the virus in the population. Most people become ill from being in close contact with someone who shows symptoms such as coughing and sneezing, therefore transmitting the virus through droplets. We continuously review the evidence and update information regularly.
Is it safe to handle cash and documents?
The risk of COVID-19 transmission by cash and documents is low and is expected to be similar to other common surfaces such as doorknobs and handrails. It is safe to handle cash and documents. However, it would be advisable to wash your hands frequently, and always before eating, after using the washroom, and before touching your face. Refusing cash could put an undue burden on people who depend on cash as a means of payment.
What do I do if I think I have coronavirus disease?  

‎If you develop cold, influenza or COVID-19-like symptoms, go to the BCCDC testing page or 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. You can complete this assessment for yourself, or on behalf of someone else, if they are unable to. Click on the BCCDC's "If you are sick" page for details on how to stop the spread of germs, what to do if your symptoms get worse and ending self-isolation. For a list of testing centres, click here. For VCH mobile testing sites click here.

How are we sharing information with the public?  

Providence Health Care advises that you visit Vancouver Coastal Health's Coronavirus Disease  page on its homepage with information for the public and links to the BC Centre for Disease Control, Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization, along with our latest statement, questions and answers and links to Physicians' Updates and letters from Medical Health Officers that are sent out to partners. Also, you can visit HealthLink BC for the latest updates. 

Anyone with health concerns is encouraged to call 8-1-1. 

The Province has created 1-888-COVID-19 to connect British Columbians needing non-medical information about COVID-19. This includes the latest information on travel recommendations and physical distancing, as well as access to support and resources from the provincial and federal governments. 1-888-COVID-19 is available seven days a week, from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. in 110 languages.

Additionally, Providence Health Care shares information regarding Providence specific logistics and important information to the public through our external facing website ( and on social media.

Patients, clients, residents, and family members may have received calls regarding appointments or procedures from their care team specifically.

Family members with loved ones residing in our Long Term Care facilities received regular bulletins with news and updates.

Please feel free to share these resources with colleagues, clients, family, friends and members of the public.

We are reporting only when we get a positive case, but are not sharing private patient information with the public.

What is self-monitoring and self-isolation?  


Click here for more information for those who are self-monitoring due to contact with a case of COVID-19 or travel to an affected area.


Click here for more information for those who are self-isolating due to contact with a case of COVID-19 or travel to an affected area.

Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?  
When a disease is new, there is no vaccine until one is developed. It can take many years to develop a new vaccine. 
What is a pandemic?  

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic. The word pandemic can be a scary word for people, but it simply means the world-wide spread of a newly identified virus. We often use it for newly identified influenza viruses. The word pandemic is not an indication of how severe the virus might be. While the risk to British Columbians remains low, work continues at federal, provincial and local health authority levels.

The provincial government has also activated its advanced COVID-19 response to protect British Columbians. For more information, visit the province's pandemic preparedness plan.

Vancouver Coastal Health's pandemic plans are also posted publicly. 

This page last updated Nov 18, 2020 2:20pm PST