Guest Post

Thunder Bay COVID-19 SURVIVAL GUIDE 

Please note that this information may change! 

Current Date: April 2, 2020 

Please email Gwen at ed@nwowc.org if you have corrections or updated information to add. 

ABOUT COVID-19  

  • The 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) causes a respiratory illness. The first presumed case of this infection in Ontario was identified on January 25, 2020.  Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious respiratory infections like bronchitis, pneumonia or severe acute respiratory syndrome. Coronaviruses are spread mainly from person to person through close contact, for example, in a household, workplace or health care centre. Some human coronaviruses spread easily between people, while others do not.  COVID 19 seems to spread easily. Your risk of severe disease may be higher if you have a weakened immune system. This may be the case for older people and people with chronic disease (for example, diabetes, cancer, heart, renal or chronic lung disease). 
  • Up to date information can be found on the World Health Organization and Public Health Agency of Canada websites.   
  • www.ontario.ca/coronavirus - The Ontario Ministry of Health reports on the status of cases in Ontario each morning at 10:30 am    
  • www.TBDHU.COM/coronavirus - The Health Unit’s website contains links to credible sources of information for both the public and local health care providers.  
  • Public Health Agency of Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html                        

As of March 27, 2020, there are no confirmed cases of COVID 19 in Thunder Bay, however some have been confirmed in the Region. The virus can likely also be spread by people who do not show any symptoms, which means it is important to continue to observe sanitation protocol. 

To Reduce the Risk of Acquiring a Virus

  • Avoid contact with people, especially those who are sick.  Avoid leaving home if you possibly can. 
  • Wash your hands often with soap under warm running water for at least 20 seconds (tip: sing Happy Birthday twice). Wash your hands before you leave home, and as soon as you come home. 
  • Avoid touching your face, and make sure your hands are clean if you do. 
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available. It’s a good idea to always keep some with you if you have to go out. 
  • Practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to reduce spread of germs: sneeze/cough into a tissue and then dispose of it as soon as possible, then wash your hands; or if no tissue available sneeze/cough into your arm/elbow. 
  • Sanitize high contact surfaces: cell phones and other devices, including computer keyboards, doorknobs, armrests, light switches, toilet handles etc. 

A mask is important to use if you exhibiting symptoms to prevent you from spreading the infection.  It is not clear whether or not wearing a mask  offers added protection from infection. Latex gloves may not protect you, or others if you are wearing them for longer periods of time, reusing them or touching your face with them. 

If you become, or are, symptomatic (i.e. develop a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, you are advised to isolate yourself at home (away from others) as quickly as possible. 

DO NOT VISIT, but IMMEDIATELY CONTACT BY PHONE Telehealth Ontario – 1-866-767-0000 , a health-care professional or Thunder Bay District Health Unit at 807-625-8318 . Describe your symptoms and travel history, follow their instructions and continue to remain home until medical clearance is received to get tested or treated. 

If you are returning home from travelling and have no symptoms, you must still remain home (self-isolate) for 14-days before returning to work or having contact with others.  The government may now be enforcing quarantine periods. 

HEALTH

Your doctor is now able to provide service to patients by phone. 

Telehealth Ontario – 1-866-767-0000 

Thunder Bay District Health Unit – https://www.tbdhu.com/coronavirus# 
999 Balmoral Street 
Thunder Bay, ON   P7B 6E7 
Tel  : 807-625-5900 / 807-625-8318 
Toll : 1-888-294-6630 (807 area only) 
Fax : 807-623-2369 
Web : www.tbdhu.com 

The Ontario government has also waived the three month OHIP wait and says that the province will cover the cost of COVID-19 services for uninsured people. 

Ontario Ministry of Health has issued the following directive to hospitals about people without OHIP cards, or those uninsured by OHIP during the COVID-19 outbreak: 

the Ministry requests hospitals provide all medically necessary services to all persons who present at a hospital, regardless of whether the person presents a valid OHIP card, or does not have health insurance under OHIP or another provincial health insurance plan. Services for uninsured persons should be prioritized consistent with the prioritization of services for insured persons.” And: “the Ministry, through its agencies, will provide payment to hospitals for both the physician and hospital services provided to all such patients” 

Thunder Bay Counselling is providing all of their service by phone, video or online counselling. The Walk-In Counselling Clinic, in partnership with Children’s Centre Thunder Bay, is available Wednesday 12-8, in-person or by phone. Please call (807) 684-1800 for more information. 

Canadian Mental Health Association https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-health-and-covid-19#coping 

Student Health and Wellness – During this challenging and uncertain time, it’s normal to feel stressed, overwhelmed, or worried for your own health, as well as that of your family and friends. Here are some ways you can take care of yourself: https://www.lakeheadu.ca/students/wellness-recreation/student-health-and-wellness/wellu 

FOOD

Some Food Banks are currently closed. The Salvation Army has closed their food programs for now. The Regular Good Food Box program is temporarily on hold – They are currently coordinating emergency food box delivery to senior’s buildings and for First Nations east of Thunder Bay.  For updates on the Good Food Box Program call (807)-345-7819 or email gfb@nwowc.org.  

Various grocery stores offer free delivery and store pick up and will provide online orders.   Example: Maltese, Georges Market, Superstore, Walmart, but may now be overwhelmed and unable to provide timely delivery. 

OPEN – Some emergency food providers are offering take-out meals or hampers for pick up. Some organizations are dropping off food in various neighborhoods. 

  • Roots to Harvest – Food distribution for families (weekly) at 8 locations across the city. For more details call (807) 285-0189  http://www.rootstoharvest.org/covid-19.html 
  • RFDA – (807) 622-7440 
  • Dew Drop In – 294 Red River Rd, Thunder Bay, ON P7B 1A8. For more details call (807) 345-0481 
  • Grace Place -235 Simpson St, Thunder Bay, ON P7C 3H6.For more details call (807) 473-3538 
  • Shelter House – 420 George St, Thunder Bay, ON P7E 5Y8. For more details call (807) 623-8182 

SAFETY

If feel you are in immediate danger, or if you are injured, call 911.  

Most local women’s services are still answering phones and emails, even if remotely. Women’s Shelters, Talk For Healing Help Line and Victim Witness Assistance are continuing to work with women experiencing violence. 

Faye Peterson Transition House Women’s Shelter:  24/7: 807-345-0450, 1-800-465-6971 

Beendigen Women’s Crisis Home: 24/7: 807-346-HELP (4357), 1-888-200-9997 

Talk 4 Healing Help Line:  

Talk, text or chat in 14 Indigenous languages: 1-855-554-HEAL(4325); www.talk4healing.com 

Sexual Abuse Centre Thunder Bay: 345-0894; 24 hour Crisis Response 344-4502 

Domestic Violence / Sexual Assault Treatment Centre TBRHSC (hospital): 684-6751; or go directly to emergency and ask for the Sexual Assault nurse. 

Coalition to End Human Trafficking: 683-4813 Help line will be reopening March 31st

Victim Witness Assistance Program (Thunder Bay Courthouse) are still operating and can help women with urgent court matters.  1-888-579-2888 

Assaulted Women’s Helpline: www.awhl.org  1-866-863-0511  #SAFE (#7233) Bell, Rogers, Telus, Fido 

FEM’AIDE: 1-877-336-2433 

  • HARM REDUCTION  (section in progress)

INCOME SECURITY

  • Ontario Works – Should proceed as usual. Next payment date is April 1, 2020.  OW is supposed to be waiving requirements for any income information or reporting for special diet or work hours and all existing benefits will continue.  There should be no automatic cut offs of benefits at this time. Call your worker if there are problems and then call Kinna-aweya Legal Clinic if the problem is not resolved. 
  • ODSP – Next payment date is March 31, 2020. Effective immediately and until further notice: – No need for income reporting submission at this time (unless electronically submitted). 
  • Special Diet Allowance, if already in place, will continue, even if set to expire – clients are not to worry about getting their forms signed or submitted for now. 
  • No requirement for verification for Mandatory Special Necessities. 
  • The office will remain open but refrain from seeing clients in person and face-to-face interactions.  

Canada Child Benefit and Ontario Child Benefit 
The Canada child benefit (CCB) is a tax-free federal benefit paid monthly to help with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age. Eligible families receive up to a monthly maximum of $553.25 for each child under 6 years of age or $466.83 for older children. 

 
The federal government has announced that the May 2020 payment will be increased by up to $300 per child, for one time only. Each family receiving CCB will get an average of $550 more than other months, depending on their number of children and income level. 
There has been no change to the OCB or Transitional Child Benefit as of yet. 

Employment Insurance  

For the ONLINE APPLICATION visit:  https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-sickness/apply.html 

  • To apply for EI benefits, you can visit the website. Afterwards, you can apply to have the one-week waiting period waived by calling the government’s toll-free number at 1-833-381-2725, or teletypewriter at 1-800-529-3742.  Job search requirements are likely suspended for the time being. 
  • Service Canada offices are now closed to the public.  
  • Workers — including the self-employed — who are quarantined or sick with COVID-19 can apply, as can those staying home to take care of a family member with COVID-19 who doesn’t qualify. Parents staying home to care for children because of school closures are also covered and can apply whether or not they qualify for EI. 
  • Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) support for employees and self-employed 
    On March 25, 2020, the federal government announced they will be replacing the two previously announced Emergency Care and Emergency Support benefits with the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The Employment Insurance Sickness Benefit remains unchanged from the previous announcement.  

If you have already applied through Employment Insurance, this benefit will be provided to you.  If you have not yet applied, you will have to wait for the new online application which will be available early in April. 

* Now replaced by CERB, see above.  

  • *Emergency assistance and relief programs – The emergency care benefit will provide up to $900 every two weeks, for up to 15 weeks, to help Canadian workers who cannot go to work, do not have paid sick leave and do not qualify for EI sickness benefits. This includes those who are sick themselves, as well as those who are staying home to look after others who are sick or children who are not in school. 

Income tax and CRA  

Canada Revenue Agency will defer its filing due date for the 2019 tax returns of individuals and certain trusts. For individuals, that means the filing date has been pushed back to June 1. The original filing date was April 30.  

Student loans 

Six-month interest-free moratorium on the repayment of Canada Student Loans for anyone currently in the process of repaying one. The measure is expected to be implemented in early April. 

For more details visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2020/03/canadas-covid-19-economic-response-plan-support-for-canadians-and-businesses.html 

EMPLOYMENT / JOBS 

The Ontario Legislature has passed the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020 to provide job-protected leave to employees in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19, or those who need to be away from work to care for children because of school or day care closures or to care for other relatives. 

During the COVID-19 outbreak, you cannot be fired from your job although you may be laid off temporarily. 

If in quarantine or self-isolating you do not need to provide a doctor’s note to your workplace in order to take sick leave or to qualify for EI for sick benefits.  

Service Canada in-person services are closed. https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2020/03/covid-19-in-person-service-canada-centres-to-be-closed.html

HOUSING 

Contact Kinna-aweya Legal Clinic if you need legal advice.  344-2478 

Many advocates are now calling for rent and mortgage relief.  Some banks and other lenders are providing some flexibility on mortgage payments, but not all. 

  • Due to COVID-19 PANDEMIC people that experience hardship should not be evicted. There will be no enforcement of eviction orders. The Landlord and Tenant Board will not issue any new eviction orders until further notice, and Sheriff’s offices have been asked to postpone any enforcement of eviction orders scheduled for this week.  
  • Also in-person Landlord and Tenant Board hearings are postponed until April 9th and will be rescheduled at a later date. Options such as written and telephone hearings will be considered where practical.  
  • It’s important to note that even though evictions are stopped for a while, you will have to get caught up on your rent eventually.  Don’t ignore anything you get in writing from your landlord or the Landlord Tenant Board – call KALC for advice. 

Agencies in the City have created a Vulnerable Population Planning team and will be addressing shelter and pandemic isolation issues for those who are homeless and other at risk. 

UTILITIES

If you are unable to pay your utilities or you need to make payment arrangements during these difficult times, contact your service provider for more details.  

Property tax  

 Due to the closure of the Victoriaville civic centre payments cannot be made in-person. 

  • Property taxes & water bills:  can be paid on-line, by telephone banking, on-line with your credit card (plastiq.com – a service fee applies), in person at your bank, or by mailing a cheque to City of Thunder Bay, PO BOX 800, Thunder Bay ON P7C 5K4   
  • Accounts receivable invoices: can be paid by mailing a cheque to City of Thunder Bay, PO BOX 800, Thunder Bay ON P7C 5K4   

A report will be presented to Council on March 30 that provides recommendations to provide financial relief relating to taxes, water and other user fees.  Further information will be provided at that time. 

Water meter/bill payment:   

  • Water Meter readings can be made at 625-3160; Final Reads can be sent to ctbwater@thunderbay.ca.  This email is not being monitored at this time, however final bills will be created on the reads sent. 
  • Enbridge Gas / Union Gas – will work directly with customers who fall behind on their gas bills to establish payment plans. Eligible customers having trouble paying their bill may qualify for emergency relief to avoid having their service disconnected through the Enbridge Energy Assistance Program. Any customer who has concerns about their ability to make their utility payment should contact us at: 

Union Gas: 1-888-774-3111; Enbridge Gas Distribution: 1-877-362-7434 

Hydro One has Extended the Winter Relief program so no customer experiencing any hardship has to worry about potential disconnection.  

Hydro One and Synergy North have dropped their rates to off-peak rates 24/7 for 45 days https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/03/ontario-providing-electricity-relief-to-families-small-businesses-and-farms-during-covid-19.html 

TRANSPORTATION

  • Thunder Bay Transit is still offering Bus service, however it may be reduced.  It is now free to ride the bus and passengers must board and exit via the rear doors.  Transit Services 570 Fort William Rd. Thunder Bay, ON P7B 2Z8 or call 807-684-3744 | 807-684-2997. Check for updates at: https://www.thunderbay.ca/en/city-services/transit.aspx  
  • URIDE Thunder Bay – for details call (807) 700-0013 or visit https://uridetech.com/thunder-bay/ 
  • Taxi – Diamond – 622-6001 / Roach Yellow Cab – 345-7721 
  • UPDATE: Transit Seeking Approval to Move to Holiday Service
  • Thunder Bay Transit is seeking approval from Council’s Committee of the Whole on Monday, to begin operating on a reduced Sunday/Holiday service schedule seven days a week beginning on April 1. All routes would be reduced to 45-minute service frequency and would operate from approximately 8 am – 11 pm.

TRAVEL

Just don’t go!  Many communities (especially First Nations) and certain provinces are restricting entry.  Airline flights are limited, and all forms of public transport are now allowed to refuse use to anyone showing symptoms. 

COMMUNICATION

TELEPHONE: Some phone providers will be automatically waiving long distance charges for mobile and home phone customers for calls to anywhere in Canada. Check with your phone and/or internet provider for more details. 

Fido / Rogers are waiving all pay-per-use roaming fees in available destinations for postpaid customers travelling outside of Canada.  

TbayTel – In support of customers who may be experiencing financial challenges due to COVID-19, Tbaytel will be implementing more flexible payment and service options until May 15, 2020. If you have any other concerns about managing your changing needs as a result of COVID-19, please contact Customer Care at 807-623-4400 or 1-800-264-9501.  

INTERNET: Some internet providers are also offering free data at this time. 

Many streaming services such as CBC GEM, Netflix, etc are also offering free services. 

Here is a great resource: https://stepstojustice.ca/covid-19 

Landlord Tenant Matters 

  • On March 19, 2020, the provincial government announced that they have applied for a court order to suspend the enforcement of eviction orders. In the meantime, the Landlord and Tenant Board should not issue any new eviction orders until further notice, and Sheriff’s offices have been asked to postpone any enforcement of eviction orders scheduled for this week.  
  • Also, all in-person Landlord and Tenant Board hearings are postponed until April 9th and will be rescheduled at a later date. Options such as written and telephone hearings will be considered where practical.  

Tribunals and Courts 

 Unless you have an urgent criminal or an urgent family court appearance in the Ontario Court of Justice between Friday March 20, 2020 and Friday May 29, 2020 do not attend court. All family trials, criminal trials and preliminary inquiries between Friday March 20, 2020 and Friday May 29, 2020 are suspended, subject to a judge seized with a continuing matter ordering otherwise.  This applies to both in-custody and out-of-custody accused. The Court is reducing the number of courtrooms that will operate. Judicial officials will remain available to preside over: 

  • regularly scheduled bail courts, remand and plea courts for in-custody proceedings; (criminal) 
  • plea court for urgent out-of-custody matters; (criminal) 
  • urgent family proceedings; 
  • applications under the Health Protection and Promotion Act; and 
  • urgent and/or essential intake court functions. 

Remember that:  It is likely that your case will be moved to a new date, probably in June.  See the link aboveCheck the Ontario Court of Justice website for updates to see if dates have been changed.  Be sure to go to court on the new date. 

IDENTIFICATION

The Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Health, in cooperation with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services and ServiceOntario, is extending the validity period of driving products, services and health cards.  

These new regulations include extensions for driver licences, licence plate validation, Ontario Photo Cards, and Commercial Vehicle Operator Registration certificates, among others.  

Expiring and expired health cards will continue to provide access to health services. 

CITY SERVICES

All non-essential City services are closed to the public as of March 25, 2020. www.thunderbay.ca/coronavirus 

FRAUD, FALSE AND MISLEADING CLAIMS

PROTECT YOURSELF and BEWARE OF SCAMS – Some people will try to take advantage of the current pandemic by asking for your money or your trust.  Numerous people fall victims to scammers claiming to be Government Officials (like Revenue Canada), police or non-existent charities.  NEVER give out your Social Insurance Number or Credit Card numbers, or send cash or e-transfer to an unconfirmed source.  Scams to watch for: 

  • Spoofed government, healthcare or research information 
  • Unsolicited calls, emails and texts giving medical advice or requesting urgent action or payment: 
  • If you didn’t initiate contact, you don’t know who you’re communicating to 
  • Never respond or click on suspicious links and attachments 
  • Never give out your personal or financial details 
  • Unauthorized or fraudulent charities requesting money for victims, products or research  
  • High-priced or low-quality products purchased in bulk by consumers and resold for profit  
  • These items may be expired and/or dangerous to your health 
  • Questionable offers, such as: miracle cures, herbal remedies, vaccinations, faster testing 
  • Fake and deceptive online ads, including: cleaning products, hand sanitizers, other items in high demand 

Beware of online claims to determine whether or not you have COVID 19 – there is only one sure way to know and that is a medical test from a registered health care provider. There are currently NO approved treatments. Please see the guide to symptoms at the end of this document. And please note:  

  • Canadian Government has NOT approved any product to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19. Selling unauthorized health products or making false or misleading claims to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19 is illegal in Canada. The Government is taking this matter very seriously and they are taking action to stop this activity. 
  • Canadian Government has also NOT approved any disinfectant products with claims specific to COVID-19. However, authorized disinfectant products can make a claim of broad spectrum of activity against viruses if they meet specific evidence standards. They are working with companies and they will publish a list of disinfectant products that can make this claim to help Canadians make effective choices. 
  • The Government encourages anyone who has information regarding potential non-compliant sale or advertising of any health product claiming to treat, prevent or cure COVID-19, to report it using our online complaint form.