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Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19

Posted Jan 31st, 2020

Updated on July 24, 2020

La préparation face au nouveau coronavirus


Niagara Health is adhering to the highest standards of infection prevention and control in our work to provide high-quality, safe care to our community during the COVID-19 pandemic. We continually review our practices to reflect the advice and direction of our hospital experts as well as the latest guidance by experts at the regional, provincial and federal level.

These Frequently Asked Questions and Answers are updated on a regular basis. Please check back often for the latest information.

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19

What can I expect when I come to the hospital?

A number of precautions are in place at Niagara Health to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19 and maintain the hospital as a safe place for all.

Masks required for Emergency Department/Urgent Care patients, outpatients and visitors

All Emergency Department/Urgent Care patients, as well as all outpatients and approved visitors, are required to wear a mask at all times while in hospital, including common areas, elevators, waiting room areas and in patient rooms while visiting. Patients and visitors are asked to bring their own masks. Limited exceptions are made on a case-by-case basis for medical reasons.

Niagara Health will provide people masks if they do not have one. If someone brings a mask that is wet, damaged or soiled, they will be asked to discard it and will be provided a new one. We also encourage the community to remember the importance of meticulous hand hygiene when putting a mask on and taking it off, and to practice physical distancing to keep everyone safe.

Find out how to safely wear a mask here.

Reduced entrances

We are limiting the points of entry/exit at each of our sites. The main entrances to our Greater Niagara General, St. Catharines and Welland sites are open from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Douglas Memorial Site from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Emergency Department and Urgent Care entrances are open 24/7.

Screening at the door

We are conducting screening of everyone at all entrances to our sites. Patients, family members, visitors and volunteers meeting the screening criteria for COVID-19 will be directed to a secondary area for further assessment. Signage is provided and staff will be on site to help with adjustments to these changes. Before entering the hospital, you will be asked if you have symptoms related to COVID-19, including fever or new cough or shortness of breath, as well as your travel history and the travel history of those who you’ve had contact with.

Visitor restrictions

We are pleased to welcome visitors back for inpatients (those admitted to the hospital) to all our sites, subject to certain conditions. This is being done in a gradual way to help ensure the safety of everyone at the hospital.

To begin, there will be two visiting blocks. Inpatients (those admitted to the hospital) may have one visitor during each block:

  • 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

To maintain a safe patient care environment, visitors must:

  • Be 18 years of age or older.
  • Pass screening in order to gain entry. Please click here to download a copy of the screening tool, which can be printed and filled out to expedite the screening process.
  • Bring their own mask and wear it at all times while in the hospital.
  • Follow infection prevention and control measures, including meticulous hand hygiene and physical distancing throughout their stay.
  • Limit their movement while in the hospital, staying in the patient’s room for the duration of the visit.
  • Visitors may bring food to their loved ones while at the hospital; however, all food must be eaten in patient rooms only and visitors must take any leftover food with them when they leave.

Please visit the Visitor Information webpage for more information. 

Essential personal items

Unfortunately, we are no longer accepting deliveries for patients. All essential items, including food, must be brought to patients by a visitor during the designated visiting times (see above).

Flower deliveries

We understand that families and friends may wish to send flowers to their loved ones while they are in the hospital, and we are pleased to support these deliveries where possible. In order to keep everyone safe we have implemented the following guidelines:

  • Unfortunately, flower deliveries to Oncology Units will not be permitted at this time.
  • We can only accept deliveries of flowers in a vase with no soil.
  • Visitor restrictions remain in place at this time. Outside of the designated visiting blocks for inpatients, flower deliveries can be made to the designated entrances and times at each of our sites (see below), where a staff member will then bring the flowers to the patient.

Flowers may be dropped off at the following locations and times:

  • St. Catharines Site: Main entrance (6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
  • Welland Site: Main entrance (6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
  • Greater Niagara General Site: Main entrance (6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
  • Port Colborne Site: Urgent Care Centre entrance (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
  • Douglas Memorial Site: Main entrance (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

What can I do to protect myself from getting COVID-19?

  • Clean your hands often
  • Avoid shaking hands and close contact with people who are sick
  • Practice physical distancing – avoid large gatherings and remain two-metres apart from others
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or into your sleeve
  • Stay home if you are sick

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of COVID-19, which is the disease caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus, range from mild — like the flu and other common respiratory infections — to severe.

The most common symptoms include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • difficulty breathing
  • muscle aches
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • sore throat
  • runny nose

(Source: Ministry of Health)

I think I may have COVID-19. What should I do?

If you would like to be tested for the novel coronavirus, we ask that you call 905-378-4647 ext. 42819 (4-CV19) to make an appointment. Making an appointment is the quickest, most efficient way to arrange for testing. Our staff will provide you with an appointment time and instructions on how to access the centre.

For safety reasons, Assessment Centres have separate entrances from the hospital. Those wishing to be tested for the novel coronavirus are asked not to arrive at the main entrance or through the Emergency Department.

Niagara Health’s St. Catharines and Niagara Falls Assessment Centres  open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Sunday. The Welland Assessment Centre is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 

Anyone requiring emergency care should call 9-1-1.

Can I go directly to the Assessment Centre?

Assessment Centres will accept walk-ins; however, those arriving for testing without an appointment will need to wait while registration and administrative procedures are completed over the phone.

In order to ensure timely registration and testing of patients, walk-ins will take place until 4 p.m. on the days of operation. 

The quickest and easiest way to be tested is to call 905-378-4647 ext. 42819 (4-CV19). Patients calling in will be given an appointment and instructions on how to access the centres. Niagara Health’s St. Catharines and Niagara Falls Assessment Centres are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Sunday. The Welland Assessment Centre is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 

The St. Catharines Assessment Centre is located behind the Walker Family Cancer Centre at the rear of the St. Catharines Site at 1200 Fourth Ave. The centre also has a drive-through service. People eligible for this service will be notified when their appointment is booked.

The Niagara Falls Assessment Centre is located in the Allied Health building behind the Greater Niagara General Site located at 5673 North Street in Niagara Falls. There is no access to the Allied Health building from the hospital.

The Welland Assessment Centre is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and is located in the auditorium of the Welland Site at 65 Third Street. The dedicated parking spots can be accessed from MacLean Place and Plymouth Road.

Please note: For safety reasons, Assessment Centres have separate entrances from the hospital. Those wishing to be tested for the novel coronavirus are asked not to arrive at the main entrance or through the Emergency Department. See maps for Niagara`s three Assessment Centres here

Click here to download the COVID-19 Assessment Centres and Testing Toolkit. 

How long will it take to get my test results? How will I access them? What should I do while I am waiting for the results?

While Niagara Health conducts tests at its assessment centres, Niagara Region Public Health follows up with patients on their test results only if their results are positive for COVID-19.

The Ministry of Health has launched a new user-friendly online portal for the public to easily access their COVID-19 lab test results. It can take up to seven days to receive test results for COVID-19. While waiting for test results, continue to self-isolate. Visit the Niagara Region Public Health website for more information about COVID-19 test results.

I have an upcoming procedure at the hospital, will it go forward?

Niagara Health has approval to move forward with the safe and gradual resumption of surgical, procedural and outpatient services for our patients and families.

The resumption of services is expected to occur gradually over the coming weeks and months, using a phased approach. Patients will be notified when their surgery or appointment is scheduled. They do not need to contact the hospital.

For more information about the reintroduction of clinical services or if you have an appointment at Niagara Health, please click here.

Are Mental Health and Addictions services available?

Niagara Health’s Mental Health and Addiction Program remains in operation and available to those needing assistance. COVID-19 has impacted people in varying ways and people may be feeling worried, anxious and overwhelmed. While you are staying at home practicing social distancing and self-isolation, stay in touch with each other and reach out if you need support.

For adults across Niagara Region:

  • For support and connection to local services, call the Access Line at 1-866-550-5205
  • If you are in crisis and just need to talk with someone, call COAST Niagara 1-866-550-5205
  • Niagara Distress Centre's 24-hour emergency numbers are 905-688-3711, 905-734-1212, 905-382-0689 and 905-563-6674. To communicate with a counsellor via text and chat, between 2 p.m. and 2 a.m. dial 258258 from a mobile device, or go to dcontario.org and click the ONTX button.

For children, youth and families across Niagara Region:

  • Counselling and supports are offered 24/7 through the Crisis Line at 1-800-263-4944
  • Pathstone's 24/7 crisis and support line is accessible by calling 1-800-263-4944
  • To reach a counsellor at any time, youth can call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868

If you would like to know more about mental health and addiction resources across the Niagara Region, visit our website .

If you or your loved one is experiencing a mental health and addiction emergency, we encourage you to go to the nearest Emergency Department.  If you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 or are unable to get to the hospital safely (for example if you have taken an overdose), stay home and call 9-1-1.

How can I stay up to date with Niagara Health’s COVID-19 response?

There are a number of ways we are providing the community with information on Niagara Health’s COVID-19 response.

Niagara Health website

Our dedicated COVID-19 webpage includes the latest updates from Niagara Health, including details about our COVID-19 Assessment Centres and other important information. The page can be found here.

We also report daily on the patient activity and testing taking place at Niagara Health related to COVID-19. This page can be found here.

Social Media

Niagara Health’s social media feeds provide the latest updates on our COVID-19 response. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter @NiagaraHealth.

Niagara Health Navigator

The Niagara Health Navigator is an easy way for you to keep up with COVID-19 related updates from Niagara Health using your mobile device. If you haven’t installed the app, the Niagara Health Navigator can be downloaded free from the App Store or Google Play.

We also appreciate the media’s support in sharing important updates with the community and the important role they play in keeping you informed.

What happens if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 at the hospital?

The health, safety and well-being of everyone is our top priority.

In an outbreak, our Infection Prevention and Control experts take immediate action to protect our patients, staff and physicians. They work closely with Niagara Region Public Health and our Occupational Health and Safety team to closely monitor the situation and adjust our safety measures as needed.

How are you planning for an increase in patients?

We are closely monitoring the number of patients coming to the hospital and working diligently to manage patient flow. Our Emergency Operations Centre continues to meet daily to plan and take action to meet the rapidly changing demands of the pandemic.

The St. Catharines Site has been designated for our COVID-19 patients. We have created a COVID-19 unit with dedicated staff and we have beds ready to open in St. Catharines to receive a potential influx of patients. Additional steps would be taken to increase capacity in a safe and controlled manner, and as needed.

Information on any current outbreaks will be posted to our case reporting page.

How can I support the healthcare teams at Niagara Health?

We are grateful for the outpouring of love and support from our community members. You can support Niagara Health sites and our healthcare teams by:

1) Donating Personal Protective Equipment

There is a need for surgical/procedural masks, N95 respiratory masks, face shields and impermeable gowns/coverings. If you have items to donate, please email foundation@niagarahealth.on.ca to coordinate a drop-off time. Thank you for your support.

2) Making a donation

Your donation supports Niagara Health with essential equipment, such as beds, IV poles, crash carts and ventilators. You can make a donation at www.SupportNHF.com.

Niagara Health System