Skip to Main Content

Gerstein Science Information Centre

COVID-19 (2019 Novel Coronavirus) Information Guide

This guide is a living document. More content will be added as new information and resources become available and as the COVID-19 situation develops. Last updated: Oct 12, 2021

COVID Alert App

Help stop the spread and prevent future outbreaks! Use this new Canadian contact tracing app to:

  • Report your current COVID-19 diagnosis
  • Get alerted if you have come into contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19

For more information and to download, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada COVID Alert page.

Toronto Public Health COVID-19 Hotline & Telehealth Ontario Hotline

If you have general questions about COVID-19, or worry that you may have been exposed and aren’t sure what to do, please call the Toronto Public Health hotline. Information is available in multiple languages.

Telephone: 416-338-7600
TTY (teletypewriter): 416-392-0658

Hours*: 8:30 am to 8:00 pm daily

After-hours: call 311 and ask for Toronto Public Health | TTY: 416-338-0889 | Email:

*Hours subject to change. Check the City of Toronto’s COVID-19 webpage for up-to-date information.


Staying Safe in Public Spaces

Travelling to and from Canada - Citizens, Visitors, Foreign Workers, & Students [NEW!]

Protect Yourself & Others

How to Protect Yourself and Others From COVID-19 - United Nations Foundation

Hand Hygiene Tips:
The first line of defence recommended by public health officials is handwashing. Frequent handwashing with soap and water (or thoroughly cleaning hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, if no handwashing facilities are available) kills viruses that may be on your hands.

The Safe Hands challenge - by WHO

Mandatory use of masks or face coverings

Effective June 11, 2022, provincial mask mandates in Ontario have been lifted with the exception of long-term care and retirement homes. For more details on changes to mask policies, please review the province's COVID-19 directives

Note that wearing masks or face coverings indoors helps keep our respiratory droplets to ourselves to prevent spreading germs to others. 

Wearing non-medical (cloth) masks or face coverings is an added public health measure for containing the spread of COVID-19 when it is used in combination with frequent handwashing, physical distancing and staying home when sick.To protect yourself and others, wear a non-medical mask or face covering when:

  • you're in public and you might come into close contact with others
  • you're in shared indoor spaces with people from outside your immediate household
  • advised by your local public health authority

Public health officials make recommendations for wearing masks based on a number of factors. These factors include rates of infection and/or transmission in the community. In some jurisdictions, the use of masks is now mandatory in many indoor public spaces and on public transit. Check with your local public health authority on the requirements for your location.

Mask-Wearing Tips

Well-designed and well-fitting masks or face coverings can prevent the spread of your infectious respiratory droplets. They may also help protect you from the infectious respiratory droplets of others.How well a mask or face covering works depends on the materials used, how the mask is made, and most importantly, how well it fits.

A mask or face covering can be homemade or purchased, and should:

  • be made of at least 3 layers (*updated Nov 3, 2020 - based on updated Public Health Agency of Canada Guidelines*)
    • 2 layers should be tightly woven material fabric, such as cotton or linen
    • the third (middle) layer should be a filter-type fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene fabric
  • be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose, mouth and chin without gaping
  • allow for easy breathing
  • fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
  • be comfortable and not require frequent adjustments
  • be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty
  • maintain its shape after washing and drying

Reusable masks with a non-woven filter layer should be washed daily, and can be washed multiple times. Disposable filters should be changed daily or as directed by the manufacturer.

Non-medical face masks should not

  • Be shared with others
  • Impair vision or interfere with tasks
  • Be placed on children under 2 years of age
  • Be made of plastic or other non-breathable materials 
  • Be secured with tape or other inappropriate materials

​(Source: Government of Canada - Non-medical face masks and coverings)

Signs & Symptoms

The most common symptoms, which may appear between 2-14 days after exposure, include:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Cough that's new or worsening (continuous)
  • Severe chest pain 
  • Fever (37.8 degrees Celsius or higher)

Other symptoms may include:

  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Runny, stuffed, or congested nose (not related to seasonal allergies or other known causes/conditions)
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
  • Digestive issues (nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain)
  • Extreme tiredness that is unusual
  • Loss of appetite

Currently, populations that are more vulnerable include the following, as they seem to develop serious illness more often than others:

  • Older persons
  • Persons with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes)

(Source: Government of Ontario - Symptoms of COVID-19)


Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China

(See the Lancet article)Timeline of coronavirus onset from the Lancet.

Assessment Tools & Sites


From the Government of Ontario.

If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has it, take this self-assessment from the Ontario government to help determine if you need to seek further care.

You will get a recommendation on what to do next. You can also take it on behalf of someone else.

From the Government of Ontario.

A self-assessment tool to help you decide if you should or should not go to school/child care today.


Find an assessment site:


Includes hours and up-to-date information on what you need to know before visiting a centre.  Updated by Ushma Purohit (University of Toronto Medical Student) & Michael Fralick (MD, PhD)​



Testing Info & Locations

Trackers for schools and long-term care

Managing Wellness