COVID-19 information and resources: reducing your risk for infection and spreading the virus

Backgrounder

November 2021

Canadians can access comprehensive information and resources on COVID-19 on the Government of Canada coronavirus disease website Canada.ca/coronavirus, including updates on the current situation, self-assessment and mental and physical health resources. The website also provides guidance on limiting the spread of the virus to others in community, business and medical professional settings.

Immediate mental health and substance use supports are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to Canadians of all ages and at no cost, at the Wellness Together Canada online portal.

Additional information on the epidemiology of COVID-19 for public health professionals is available in the daily COVID-19 in Canada epidemiology update.

While COVID-19 is still circulating in Canada and internationally, vaccination in combination with layers of public health measures and individual prevention practices continue to be important for control of COVID-19 and lowering your personal risks. The need for vigilance and precautions is further emphasized while assessment of the significance and impact of the newly designated Omicron variant of concern is underway.

At this time, Canadians are urged to exercise extra caution if travelling and to be aware of requirements for visiting other countries and when coming into Canada. Canadians should be fully vaccinated by completing an approved COVID-19 vaccine series in Canada or abroad at least 14 days before travelling. Individuals who are unvaccinated are at increased risk of infection with and spreading the virus and should continue to avoid non-essential travel to all destinations.

The following "Quick Checks" table can help you think about the risks. By considering (A) your personal/close contacts' risk factors, (B) risk factors posed by the setting/activity, and (C) things you can do to reduce your risk of infection and unintentionally spreading the virus, you can keep yourself and others safer during COVID-19.

Quick Checks on COVID-19 Risks to Consider
A. PERSONAL AND HOUSEHOLD/CONTACT
RISK FACTORS CONSIDERATIONS
B. SETTINGS/ACTIVITY
RISK FACTORS CONSIDERATIONS
  1. Am I at high risk of developing serious complications of COVID-19 or would having to self-isolate/quarantine seriously disrupt my plans or priorities?
  2. Are there people at high risk of developing serious complications of COVID-19 in my household/close contacts that I could unintentionally infect?
  1. Are there measures in place in the setting to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, e.g. adequate ventilation, requiring people to wear masks, avoiding crowding?
  2. Will I be able to make adjustments in the setting (e.g. properly wearing a well-fitted, well-constructed mask, occasionally opening a window or door to improve ventilation, stepping away if it gets crowded)?
C. THINGS YOU CAN DO TO REDUCE YOUR RISK OF INFECTION AND UNINTENTIONALLY SPREADING THE VIRUS

Getting fully vaccinated is an important foundation of protection against COVID-19 and its harms. Plan for, register, and get vaccinated and support others to get vaccinated. See below for more information on COVID-19 vaccination.

Continued circulation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus together with current evidence on the prominence of aerosol transmission, including spread of droplets and aerosols during breathing, has reinforced the importance of layering protections to reduce infection and spread of the virus. Hence, as we spend more time indoors during the fall and winter months, it is important to layer protections such as properly wearing a well-fitted and well-constructed face mask, improving ventilation of indoor public and private shared spaces and avoiding crowded places where possible.

Even if it's not specifically required, and whether you are vaccinated or not, consider wearing a mask in shared spaces with people from outside of your immediate household, especially indoors, as an added layer of protection. Masks are strongly recommended in any crowded setting, including settings with vaccination requirements.

Moreover, regardless of your vaccination status, you can continue to take other measures to lower your risks and/or support others at high risk of COVID-19 severe disease or outcomes by being prepared and finding safer ways to connect. It is recommended that you continue to follow local public health advice. In addition, personal protective practices such as the following continue to be important:

  • Finding ways to safely participate in society and meet our physical, social and mental health needs by choosing lower risk settings and activities.
  • Staying home and keeping away from others if you have any symptoms, even if mild (as needed, contact your local public health authority to be guided safely to testing and care).
  • Accessing quality information remains crucial for safety and success. There is a lot of misinformation circulating online and on social media so it is important to fact check against trusted and credible sources. Canadians can go the extra mile by sharing credible information and updates with others.

If you are not vaccinated, partially vaccinated or at risk of more severe disease or outcomes, using layers of protection including properly wearing a well-fitted and well-constructed face mask when in public or private spaces with others outside of your household and physical distancing can help to reduce your risk in all settings, as well as avoiding crowding and improving ventilation in indoor spaces as much as possible. Your risk is always lower when outside in well-ventilated, uncrowded areas.

COVID-19 Vaccination

Vaccination is a proven way to reduce the impact of infectious diseases, including COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without us getting the illness and evidence continues to demonstrate that getting vaccinated reduces your risk of serious illness, hospitalisation and death due to COVID-19.

I encourage all Canadians to learn more about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada, including how vaccines are developed and what to expect at your vaccination. Visit Canada.ca for more information on Canada's rigorous approval process for reviewing and authorizing vaccines to ensure safety, efficacy and quality standards, and ongoing monitoring for vaccine safety and effectiveness.

Canadians are encouraged to seek out trusted and reliable sources of information to help guide vaccination decisions, such as your health care provider, local public health authority or Canada.ca and Immunize.ca.

If you are reading or sharing information through your social media channels, please make sure that the information is from an original source that you can trust.

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