Last updated: January 15, 2021 at 10:30 a.m.
You should get tested for COVID-19 if you have one or more symptoms of COVID-19, you were a close contact of someone who has COVID-19 or you are concerned you may have been exposed to someone who might have COVID-19.
A Province-wide declaration of emergency
is in effect. Stay home except for essential reasons. Read the tips to prevent the spread to learn how you can protect yourself and others.
Everyone has a role to play. The actions you take will protect you, loved ones and those most vulnerable in our community.
Tips to Prevent the Spread
The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed:
- Trips outside the home should only be for essential reasons such as groceries, medicine health care appointments, exercise, school, child care and work that cannot be done from home
- Having anyone – including family or friends – that is not a member of your household in your home for a social visit is is not permitted under provincial orders
- Essential support workers and emergency repairpersons are permitted
- Individuals who live alone may have exclusive contact with only one other household to help reduce the negative impacts of social isolation
- Keep two metres (six feet) distance from others
- Wear a mask or face covering in indoor public spaces and when you can’t keep physical distance
- Clean your hands often. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based (70-90 per cent) hand sanitizer
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
- Cover your cough or sneeze with your elbow or a tissue. Immediately throw the tissue in the garbage and wash your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- Avoid close contact with people you don’t live with
- Stay home if you are feeling unwell
- Download the COVID Alert app so you can be notified directly if you have been in close contact with someone who was contagious with COVID-19
- Avoid non-essential travel and follow travel advice if you do need to travel
To practise physical distancing means to stay two metres or six feet from other people. By limiting close contact with others, we can reduce the spread of COVID-19. The actions we take will help us to protect each other.
- Stay home even if you have mild symptoms.
- Avoid non-essential trips.
- Greet others from a distance with a smile, nod or a wave.
- Avoid close contact with people outside of your household by staying two metres/six feet apart and wearing a mask.
- You still need to practise physical distancing when wearing a mask or face covering.
- Avoid crowded places, play dates, or any gathering with people outside of your household.
Do not visit friends and relatives in other apartments in the same building.
Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette
- Wash your hands often, and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
- Use of disposable gloves are not a substitute for hand washing. People can still touch their face with dirty gloves.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow or sleeve.
- Continue to work from home, when possible.
- Go out with members of your household for fresh air, exercise and outdoor play.
- Shop and bank online, or shop during off-peak hours or use curbside pickup.
- Practise self-care, and check-in with family, friends and vulnerable neighbours.
- Connect virtually with others for social gatherings and visits.
- If home is not safe for you, reach out for help.
Residents of multi-unit buildings
- Limit your time in common areas and wear a mask or face covering.
- Wait for another elevator if you cannot stay two metres (six feet) apart.
- People who live in the same household do not need to stay two metres apart in elevators.
- Use your elbow to push elevators buttons or sanitize hands often.
- For shared laundry areas:
- Choose a less busy time, if possible.
- Keep two metres (six feet) from others and wear a mask.
- Sort and fold clothes at home.
- Wash your hands when you return home.
Exercise and outdoor play
- Do not use public transit if you are sick or self-isolating.
- Wear a mask or face covering; it is required under a TTC bylaw.
- Avoid travel during peak hours, when possible.
- Use your elbow/arm to push buttons/open doors.
- When using taxi and ride share, sit in the back, wear a mask and keep the windows open.
- Wash or sanitize your hands when you reach your destination.
- Have a list to keep trips short.
- Limit to one household member when shopping.
- Avoid crowded stores, and go back when it is less busy.
- Use tap to pay rather than handling cash.
- Wash or sanitize your hands often, and when you return home.
Wearing a mask or face covering in indoor public spaces can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is also a requirement under the mandatory mask or face covering bylaw in Toronto. This bylaw applies to indoor public spaces, such as stores, mall, restaurants, library, galleries, hair salons and places of worship. Be respectful of people who can’t wear a mask. Some health conditions make breathing through a mask difficult.
Consider downloading Health Canada’s COVID Alert app so you can be notified directly if you have been in close contact with someone who was contagious with COVID-19.
Download this information as a PDF.
Face Masks & Coverings
Wearing a mask in addition to physical distancing and other public health measures can reduce the spread of COVID-19. Masks should always be worn when physical distancing is difficult.
Masks are required in Public Places
The City of Toronto By-law 541-2020 and By-law 542-2020 requires everyone to wear masks or face coverings in all indoor public settings, including common areas in multi-residential buildings. The provincial government also requires that masks be worn in indoor settings under the Reopening Ontario Act.
Masks and Source Control
When we all wear a mask to cover our respiratory droplets it provides source control to reduce the spread of germs into the air and on surfaces. Some masks can also protect the wearer from infection.
Qualities of a Good Cloth Mask
- Masks should be made of at least two layers of tightly woven fabric (such as cotton or linen), and, if possible, a middle “filter” layer. A three layer mask can provide added protection.
- For masks with a pocket, add a disposable coffee filter, paper towel, or reusable filter cloth.
- For masks without a pocket, cut/unstitch one end and tuck a filter in between the two layers.
- Your mask should fit your face, covering your nose, mouth and chin without gaping.
- Your mask should be comfortable, easy to breathe through, and not limit your vision.
- Mask and ties/ear loops should fit securely to avoid adjusting during use.
- Choose fabric that can support a high temperature wash (e.g. cotton). Avoid stretchy material.
- Choose fabric that maintains the mask shape after washing and drying.
Visit the Government of Canada website for information on homemade masks.
Proper Use of a Face Mask
- Wash or sanitize your hands before putting on and after taking off your mask.
- Place the mask over your nose, mouth and chin without gaping.
- Change your mask if it becomes moist or dirty.
- Remove your mask by the ear loops without touching the front of the mask.
- Put your used mask in a plastic bag or directly in the laundry bin to be washed.
- Launder cloth masks with other items using the hot wash cycle and dryer.
What to Avoid When Using Masks
- Do not share your mask with others.
- Do not re-use disposable masks.
- Avoid touching your face or mask when wearing it.
- Do not wear your mask under the nose, chin or forehead, or hang it from your ear.
- Do not put masks on children under the age of two.
- Do not put masks on people who have trouble breathing or who cannot remove the mask without assistance.
People at Greater Risk of COVID-19
People at greater risk of COVID-19 due to work or living situations, or those who are prone to severe illness from COVID-19 should consider using a three-layer mask. Medical masks can also be used, if available.
Cloth masks do not replace personal protective equipment (PPE) required in workplace settings. The Reopening Ontario Act requires mask use, including by employees, in all indoor settings.
People Unable to Wear Masks
We need to be respectful of people who are unable to wear a mask because of their age or medical condition. For businesses and service providers, consider offering alternative service to people who are unable to wear a mask. Try curb-side pickup or offer services during off-peak hours.
Products Not Recommended
- A face shield is not an alternative to masks as it does not protect others from your respiratory particles. A face shield may be worn with a mask as added protection for the wearer.
- Plastic masks do not protect others from your respiratory particles and cannot be cleaned and disinfected between uses.
- Masks with an exhaust valve can make breathing more comfortable for the person wearing it, but it can spread respiratory particles into the room.
Download this information as a PDF (also available in Amharic | Arabic | Bengali | Dari | Farsi | French | Gujarati | Pashto | Portuguese | Punjabi | Simplified Chinese | Somali | Spanish | Tamil | Urdu | Vietnamese).
There is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread by food or food packaging. Wiping down containers or packaging is not necessary. In general, you can lower your risk of infection by following safe food handling practices.
It is important to:
- Wash your hands before and after handling groceries, take-out bags and containers
- Clean and disinfect surfaces after handling groceries and packaging
- Wash reusable shopping bags
- Wash vegetables and fruit under cold running water
Shopping for Essentials:
The following recommendations can help you protect yourself, and prevent the spread of COVID-19 when you are shopping. Also, consider downloading the COVID Alert app so you can be notified directly if you have been in close contact with someone who was contagious with COVID-19.
Stay home if you are sick
Limit the number of shopping trips
- Order supplies online, if possible.
- Minimize the number of trips for groceries, medication and other essentials, to once a week.
- Keep track of the essentials you already have at home. Try to be creative and use what you have before deciding to go out (e.g. try new recipes).
- Offer to pick-up essentials for neighbours, especially vulnerable community members.
- Plan before going out:
- Make a list of the items that you need to limit the amount of time spent out during your visit.
- Buy enough for one to two weeks at a time, buying more than this can create strain on supply chains and result in temporary shortages.
- Try to do all of your shopping at one location.
- Check the stores website or call in advance to find out when the best time to visit is (i.e. off-peak hours) and to find out about special hours for seniors and vulnerable individuals.
- Allow for extra time. Stores may limit the number of people entering at a time, and may have a lineup outside the main entrance.
- Be patient and treat store employees and other customers with kindness and respect.
Safe shopping practices
- Practice physical distancing:
- Reduce crowding by not bringing extra people with you when going shopping.
- Households should designate one person to do the shopping, if possible.
- Keep two metres (six feet) apart from others:
- Follow physical distancing markers and visual aids (e.g. signage, floor markings) where provided
- Avoid crowded aisles.
- Be courteous to others in front of you by allowing them to complete their selection of items before moving forward.
- If you have to ask a staff member a question, remember to keep your distance.
- Don’t crowd the cashier station, and keep your distance from the person in front of you.
- Wait until the person in front of you has finished collecting their items before unloading yours at the cashier station.
- Greet others from a distance with a nod or wave.
- Practice hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette:
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds.
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, if your hands are not visibly soiled.
- If possible, carry hand sanitizer and use it before entering and immediately after exiting the store.
- Cover your cough or sneeze into a tissue. Immediately throw the tissue in the garbage and wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Use disinfectant wipes:
- If provided in the store, wipe down the cart or basket handles and discard the wipe immediately.
- If possible, bring your own disinfectant wipes.
- Practice general food safety while shopping:
- Avoid touching items that you are not going to buy.
- Visually inspect fruit, vegetables and other items prior to selection to ensure they are fresh.
- Canned food should be free of dents, rust and bulges.
- Packages should be intact with no ripped or torn packaging.
- Avoid purchasing bulk food items that are not prepackaged (e.g. candy, nuts).
- Use contactless payment whenever possible.
- Never leave food in a hot car as warm temperatures can help bacteria to grow.
- If reusable bags are permitted, bag your own groceries to minimize touching by other individuals.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces in your vehicle if you touched them before washing/sanitizing your hands (e.g. steering wheel, door handles, radio dials).
- Gloves are not a substitute for proper hand hygiene, and are not recommended when shopping.
- If you choose to wear gloves, it is important to change/remove them when they become dirty and after exiting the store.
- Avoid touching your face when wearing gloves.
- Discard gloves in a waste receptacle immediately after removing.
- Wash and/or sanitize your hands immediately after removing gloves.
Face masks and coverings
- You must wear a mask or face covering when you are in indoor public spaces such as stores, as per a new City of Toronto bylaw. Some exceptions apply, including children under the age of two, and people with medical conditions that make wearing a mask difficult. Learn about the proper use and disposal of masks.
Putting away your groceries
- Wash your hands with soap and water immediately after returning home, handling groceries, bags, food packaging/containers and putting away food.
- Wash fresh fruits and vegetables, under cold running water.
- Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods promptly.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces after unpacking your groceries (e.g. countertops).
- Clean and wash re-usable grocery bags before every use.
Using food delivery services
- Food should be delivered and received with minimal or no contact.
- Prepay for food with a credit card when you order over the phone, or online.
- Delivery should be contactless:
- Orders should be delivered to your front door or a designated area.
- Maintain two meters (six feet) when receiving a delivery.
- Check the following upon receiving a food delivery:
- Food should be delivered to you as quickly as possible to ensure it is received at the proper temperatures: “hot food” should be hot and “cold food” should be cold.
- Food packing should be intact and sealed to prevent leaking and protect the food during transit.
- Food packaging should be labelled.
- Check for signs of freshness (i.e. no spoilage and mould).
- If in doubt, throw it out, or contact the store you purchased the food from.
- After receiving take-out deliveries, transfer the meal to a plate and discard the packaging immediately.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after handling take-out bags/packaging and before eating.
General food safety practices at home
- Prevent cross contamination:
- Keep fruits, vegetables and ready to eat foods separate from raw meats.
- Wash your hands before and after handling or preparing food.
- Cook/reheat food properly to avoid foodborne illness.
- Use a probe thermometer to check that the food is cooked to the proper internal temperature.
- Cooking and reheating food to recommended internal temperatures for beef, poultry, pork should kill the virus that causes COVID-19.
- Visit our website to learn more about food safety at home.
- Seniors and vulnerable residents who are in self-isolation, feeling ill or need help obtaining food, can call 211 for assistance.
- Visit our website for more information about food access strategies and delivery services.
Download this information as a PDF (also available in Amharic | Arabic | Bengali | Dari | Farsi | French | Gujarati | Pashto | Portuguese | Punjabi | Simplified Chinese | Somali | Spanish | Tamil | Urdu | Vietnamese).
Safer Sex During COVID-19
Consensual sex can be a way of dealing with anxiety or fulfilling and expressing our needs for intimacy. A safe and pleasurable sex life is an important part of mental health and wellbeing. But is it safe to have sex during COVID-19?
Safer sexual practices may prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but it will not prevent infection from COVID-19. COVID-19 spreads through direct contact with respiratory droplets (spit) of someone who is infected with the virus when they cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can spread up to two metres or six feet. The virus has also been found in semen (cum) and feces (poop). It is not yet known if the virus can be found in blood or vaginal fluids. It may also be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
How to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and still enjoy sex
- Your safest sex partner during the COVID-19 pandemic is yourself. Solo sex, also known as masturbation, does not spread COVID-19.
- Your next safest partner is someone you live with.
- If you usually meet sex partners online, are polyamorous with people who you don’t live with, or make a living having sex, consider video dates, virtual sex, sexting or chat rooms instead of meeting people in person.
Protect yourself and your partners when having sex
- Talk to your partner about COVID-19 risk factors and how to protect yourselves.
- Skip having sex if you or your partner are feeling unwell, have symptoms of COVID-19 or if either of you have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19.
- Consider downloading Health Canada’s COVID Alert app so you can be notified directly if you have been in close contact with someone who was contagious with COVID-19.
- Wash your hands before and after having sex, whether alone or with a partner.
- Be creative and find ways to include using masks during sex, especially with a partner you do not live with.
- Avoid or limit kissing and saliva exchange and do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Consider sexual positions that avoid being face-to-face.
- During oral or anal sex, use condoms, gloves or other barriers to reduce contact with saliva and other fluids.
- Use condoms to protect yourself from STIs.
- Clean sex toys and consider covering them with a condom. Do not share sex toys with others.
- Avoid having sex if one partner has a health condition that can lead to more severe illness from COVID-19.
Learn more about safer sex during COVID-19 (also available in Amharic | Arabic | Bengali | Dari | Farsi | French | Gujarati | Pashto | Portuguese | Punjabi | Simplified Chinese | Somali | Spanish | Tamil | Urdu | Vietnamese).
Safely Performing CPR During COVID-19
You can safely perform CPR during COVID-19 and reduce the spread of the virus by following these hands-only CPR guidelines, which were developed by Toronto Paramedic Services.
About COVID-19 & How it Spreads
On December 31, 2019, Chinese health authorities identified a new (or novel) coronavirus (referred to as COVID-19) through a series of reported cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, China.
Coronaviruses are a large family of common viruses which are typically associated with mild illness, similar to the common cold and spread easily between people. There are however, strains of coronaviruses which have caused more severe illness, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). These tend to have more difficulty spreading from person to person.
COVID-19 is most commonly spread from an infected person through:
- Respiratory droplets shared when you cough or sneeze. These droplets can spread up to 2 metres, or 6 feet.
- Close, prolonged personal contact (defined as being within 2 metres for 15 minutes or more), or having physical contact, such as hugging someone.
- Touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.
While COVID-19 can spread from aerosols generated during medical procedures and certain dental procedures, airborne transmission is not a common way the virus is spread. COVID-19 is not known to be spread through airborne transmission in community settings, ventilation systems or through water.
Transmission from aerosols may be possible when there are a higher number of people indoors, for a longer period of time, with poor airflow or ventilation. With proper airflow or ventilation, smaller virus particles will become diluted and disperse faster, similar to what occurs when you open windows to air out a smoky room. While aerosols may contribute to the spread of COVID-19, infections are still linked to person-to-person transmission through close direct contact with someone who was contagious.
Learn more about COVID-19 transmission, aerosols and ventilation (also available in French) or visit the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website.
General Cleaning Tips for Your Home
Most regular household cleaners are effective against COVID-19. Read the label to know if the cleaning product will also disinfect. Clean and disinfect common surfaces such as door handles, countertops, tables, light switches, faucets, sinks, toilets, etc. to reduce the spread of germs and virus. If the surfaces are dirty, they should be cleaned with soap and water first before applying disinfectant. Leave the disinfecting solution to dry for it to work. Always follow the product instructions.
For soft surfaces such as drapes and clothing. Read the label. Launder items according to the label, using the warmest temperature setting permitted. See UNICEF for more cleaning tips and on doing laundry during COVID-19.
Electronic devices such as cell phones, tablets, keyboards and remote controls are the most forgotten surfaces. Use disinfectant wipes that are appropriate for electronics. If there is no manufacturer instructions, use 70% alcohol-based wipes.
Caution: Always read the label. Do not mix chemicals. Wear protective gloves/eyewear and open windows for good ventilation. Store chemicals out of reach of children and pets.
For more information, visit Public Health Ontario: Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings.
Advice for Specific Needs
Tailored health advice related to alcohol and drug use; pregnancy, breastfeeding and child care; seniors information, communicating with people who are deaf or hard of hearing; and pet ownership to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Know the Law
Learn how emergency orders, directives and bylaws impact you, including the Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health’s directives for residents of Toronto issued on April 1.
Information in French
For information in French about COVID-19, please visit the Government of Ontario’s website and Public Health Ontario portal.