Toronto’s medical officer of health is sounding concern over new data that suggest that most people are waiting too long after developing symptoms before getting tested for COVID-19.

“It is taking on average almost five days from the time someone presents with COVID-19 symptoms to when they get tested,” Dr. Eileen de Villa said in a news conference Monday. “This is very concerning.”

De Villa said anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested as soon as possible and should self-isolate before and after getting their test.

“If you live with other people in your household, please inform them that you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and that you are getting tested. People you live with should monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms and get tested should they develop any of these symptoms,” de Villa said.

COVID-19 symptoms can include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • difficulty breathing
  • unexplained fatigue
  • a headache
  • sore throat
  • runny nose that does not fit with your typical seasonal allergies
  • loss of taste or smell
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain

De Villa reminded people that even if they are not worried about getting sick themselves, they could still unknowingly be spreading COVID-19 to others if they have symptoms and don’t get tested.

“You may feel healthy and you may have no symptoms, but you can still have COVID-19 and be contagious,” de Villa said. “While you are out with your friends you can unknowingly spread the virus. It can then spread further, possibly to a more vulnerable person who is at risk of serious complications from COVID-19 or at risk of dying. This could be anybody –your friends, your neighbours, your parents, your loved ones.”

People who gathered in large groups should self-monitor

Toronto’s top doctor also issued advice to those who gathered at Trinity Bellwoods Park over the weekend.

“If you were one of these people, it is possible that you may have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19 infection, but with little or no symptoms, especially if you were within six feet of others having face-to-face conversations,” she said. “Because of this it is important that you monitor yourself carefully for COVID-19 symptoms for the next 14 days.  If you develop any symptoms of COVID-19, please go and get tested immediately.”

She urged people who were at the park to be especially diligent about hand-washing, physical distancing and mask usage while they are self-monitoring for symptoms.

“Please also consider avoiding contact with people who are most vulnerable for serious illness, or complications of COVID-19 such as elderly people and those with chronic health conditions,” de Villa said.

Thousands of people gathered in the popular downtown park Saturday to bask in the warm weather, many in large groups despite public health advice prohibiting gatherings of five or more.

While Toronto’s parks have remained open throughout the pandemic, such gatherings are still prohibited. An emergency bylaw in Toronto also prohibits people from being closer than six feet together in parks and squares unless they live in the same household.