This post was last updated on March 1, 2021.
Right now, there’s a lot of information about COVID-19 in the news, online, and on TV. What and who do we trust? Our team at SCI BC has compiled a comprehensive list of trusted sources to help you stay informed.
Don’t miss our Ask an Expert: COVID-19 video playlist and read on for answers to the most frequently asked questions specific to spinal cord injury or related physical disabilities and COVID-19.
We will be updating this post with more FAQs as they become available—so please check back for the latest information. Got questions? Contact SCI BC’s Infoline at 1-800-689-2477, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The COVID-19 vaccines will be provided to Canadians free of charge and have been carefully reviewed for safety and effectiveness. The province has outlined its immunization plan and BC is currently in Phase 2 of the roll-out. This phase focuses on high-risk populations and includes:
- Seniors born in 1941 or earlier not immunized in Phase 1
Indigenous (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) peoples born in 1956 or earlier, Elders and additional Indigenous communities not immunized in Phase 1
- Hospital staff, community general practitioners (GPs) and medical specialists not immunized in Phase 1
- Vulnerable populations living and working in select congregated settings
- Staff in community home support and nursing services
We encourage you to learn more about the vaccine and BC’s immunization plan by visiting these websites:
SCI BC is advocating to ensure people with SCI and other disabilities have fair and equitable access to the vaccine. We have been working to ensure that people with SCI and other disabilities are not discriminated against and that a human rights approach be taken in all aspects of decision-making during the pandemic.
A summary of all available research on people with SCI who have had COVID-19 tells us that people with SCI are not at higher risk for COVID-19, unless they have underlying conditions that are known to be high risk (i.e. obesity, diabetes or hypertension, are 70 years or older, live in long term care or assisted living, or do direct patient care).
- Read what to do on the BC CDC website: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19
- Take the online self assessment tool for people with symptoms or who are concerned they have the virus: https://covid19.thrive.health
- If you are in a high risk category (see FAQ below), ensure you share that information with 811 or any healthcare provider you speak to about your COVID-19 symptoms. Those in higher-risk groups must consider seeking help earlier if you have symptoms.
Image Credit: Twitter @VCHhealthcare
- If they have been in contact with someone with symptoms or confirmed COVID-19 (including exposure at another job), they should self-isolate for 14 days and not be in contact with you or other clients.
- If they show symptoms, ensure they contact 811 or refer them to the self-assessment tool: https://covid19.thrive.health
- If a caregiver employee is sent home due to COVID-19 risk, you only have to pay the minimum 2 hour requirement or the time already worked, whichever is more.
- Make sure to let employees who are sent home sick know that there is an EI sickness benefit for those forced to quarantine due to COVID19, they can contact EI for more information.
SCI & COVID-19 resource from SCI Canada: https://sci-can.ca/covid-19-guidance-spinal-cord-injury-community-20200312
COVID-19 is a viral illness that results in very serious pneumonia in a small percentage of cases, particularly in the elderly and those who have other health issues that complicate how COVID-19 affects the body. There is no treatment for it other than supportive care, and in serious cases, hospital treatment is required – sometimes in the ICU. What we know about the risks for people with SCI are based on how SCI affects breathing, common SCI complications, and how living with SCI can make it harder to protect ourselves from infection.
Everyone with SCI has some degree of impairment in respiratory function because of how spinal cord injury weakens the breathing muscles of the rib cage, abdomen or diaphragm. Some complications of SCI may increase the risks of getting a more serious case of COVID-19, such as cardiovascular disease. People with SCI also have additional risks of exposure to COVID-19 as those who require attendant care cannot avoid close contact with caregivers while working with them, especially those whose caregivers also work with other vulnerable people or at hospital sites.
Check out our COVID-19 and SCI Ask an Expert Series on Youtube, with interviews and Q&A with medical experts on SCI and COVID-19.
Read the white paper about what the research says regarding COVID-19 in people with spinal cord injury as of December 2020.
Public health experts have advised everyone to wash their hands regularly to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It can be harder for people using wheelchairs to do so if they are always touching their wheelchairs, or using their teeth to compensate for poor hand function. It is important that you also wipe your wheelchair wheels, high-touch areas you use to transfer, and joystick or armrests every time you wash your hands. See the hand hygiene guide here, developed by John Shepherd at the University of Toronto, in collaboration with SCI BC and other SCI organizations.
Dr. Jennifer Grant, an Infectious Diseases specialist at Richmond Hospital indicated that the mechanical forces that typical wheelchair wheels experience mean that the virus is unlikely to survive there, however, the virus can last a long while on metal and plastic coatings used for wheelchair push rims, meaning that it’s important to wipe down your wheels and pushrims when you wash your hands. More on this in our Ask an Expert: Infectious Disease article.
Should I wear gloves outside instead? Probably not, unless you need to protect your hands or have a wound you need to protect. See more in Dr. Grant’s Ask An Expert article.
See the SCI BC Ask an Expert Video Playlist for Q&A sessions with medical experts about COVID19 and Spinal Cord Injury.
- COVID19 and SCI Ask an Expert session with SCI specialist Dr. Andrei Krassioukov with Teri Thorson and Peers from around the province (April 27, 2020).
- Is rehab and exercise still possible during COVID19? Ask an Expert 2 Q&A with GF Strong Rehab clinicians Shannon Sproule (PT), Cynthia Morin (OT) and Physical Activity researchers Jasmin Ma and Kathleen Martin Ginis. (May 7, 2020)
- Ask an Expert 3 – Lung Health and COVID19 With Dr. Road
- Ask an Expert 4 – Q&A with Infectious Diseases specialist Dr. Jennifer Grant. (May 26 2020)
- Ask an Expert 5 – Mental Health During COVID-19 with neuropsychiatrist Dr. Brad Hallam
In this at-home resource list, you’ll find a wealth of information on living day to day while self-isolating. From online games, virtual events, physical activity to grocery shopping tips and hand hygiene for people with SCI.
If you’re looking for resources for mental health and respiratory care refer to this document which addresses depression, the psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it, SCI Respiratory care specific to COVID-19 and much more.
COVID-19 and Spinal Cord Injury: White Paper by the North American SCI Consortium, surveying the research about COVID-19 in people with SCI.
BC CDC advice for Chronic Illness and COVID19: http://www.ca/resourcegallery/Documents/Guidelines%20and%20Forms/Guidelines%20and%20Manuals/Epid/CD%20Manual/Chapter%201%20-%20CDC/COVID-19-Handout-chronic-disease.pdf
SCI & COVID 19 (SCI Canada): https://sci-can.ca/covid-19-guidance-spinal-cord-injury-community-20200312
SCI and COVID-19 (Reeve Foundation): https://www.christopherreeve.org/blog/daily-dose/the-coronavirus-and-spinal-cord-injury
Infectious Respiratory Conditions after SCI (SCIRE Community): https://scireproject.com/community/topic/infectious-respiratory-conditions/
December 2020: As case counts of COVID-19 fluctuate in British Columbia, public health authorities have started taking a regional approach to preventing the spread of COVID-19 across health authority boundaries for non-work and non-medical reasons. There is no restriction on medical travel across health authority boundaries in BC, however, the same advice applies as mentioned below. Check with your provider’s office ahead of time and discuss the risks with your physician. Hospitals in BC continue to be well equipped to manage the safety of their outpatients as well as inpatients during the pandemic, with many hospitals continuing outpatient and even inpatient surgical procedures.
As of June 2020, most healthcare providers have returned to some level of service, though some including dentists are offering shorter office hours in order to ensure offices are cleaned and staff and patients are protected. For more on access to rehabilitation services (such as the SCI wound program, botox, and the SCI outpatient clinic at GF Strong Rehab Centre), check out this Ask an Expert session with GF Strong clinicians. Call your healthcare provider’s office to find out their level of service and find out if video or Telehealth options are available for you.
In our May 2020 Ask an Expert session with Infectious Diseases specialist Dr. Jennifer Grant, Dr. Grant indicated that during Phase 3 of re-opening when there is a very small level of virus circulating in the community, this is a very good time to keep your medical appointments as the risk is very low. Healthcare providers are encouraging patients to not stay at home with health concerns too long out of fear of the virus as it may make it harder to look after your concern. If you are considering putting off your appointment because of concerns about COVID19, contact the clinician’s office to let them know first, they may be able to offer you an alternative.
There’s not always a clear answer to this question, but here are some things to consider:
Call the provider’s office first to ensure they are still seeing patients.
Consider how this appointment/treatment may put you at risk: will you encounter anyone else who doesn’t live with you while keeping the appointment (ie transit/taxi, waiting rooms, etc.)? Will you be in a space where there are at risk patients or caregivers? Will you be in contact with healthcare providers who may be exposed to COVID-19 (ie: in the ER)?
Will missing the appointment/treatment cause you medical withdrawal from medications or result in acute negative health issues requiring hospital care? If so, try one of the options below:
- Ask the provider’s office if they can do a phone appointment instead. Most specialists and physicians are doing phone appointments to keep patients out of their waiting rooms.
- Try seeing a primary care/family doctor using an online virtual health service like the following (free for people on BC MSP):
- Babylon by TELUS Health is a free healthcare mobile app that allows you to check symptoms, consult with doctors and access your health records: https://www.telus.com/en/bc/health/personal/babylon
- AccessVirtual, formerly Medeo, allows you to video visit with the family doctor or specialist from home using your computer, iOS or Android device. https://accessvirtual.ca/british-columbia/en/
The Province of BC has relaxed certain restrictions on filling opioid prescriptions so people with chronic pain can access their medications without having to be physically in a clinic. For this information and other great resources for managing chronic pain during the pandemic, check out Pain BC.
- BC Pharmacies are now allowed to provide refills of prescribed medication without a new prescription. Contact your local pharmacy for information about delivery. Health Canada has issued a temporary exemption for access to opioid medications for people with pain. More information is here, but you may need to speak to your pharmacist about it before refilling as the exemption was only issued March 24:
- Contact Infoline – 1-800-689-2477 or email@example.com and let us know your need. We have supplies of PPE and disposable gloves, as well as home exercise kits we can send out free of charge.
- Check our Swap n Shop service – www.sci-bc.ca/marketplace – post a request for the supplies you need and browse offers for supplies
- Ask your pharmacy if they have any supplies behind the counter (specifically for medical needs like yours) – in many locations they are hiding some medical supplies like gloves and wipes for their patients because of hoarding.
- Contact your CSIL worker if you are having issues securing caregivers, or getting them adequate supplies to protect you both.
- You can use agency caregivers if you aren’t able to secure usual caregivers using your CSIL funding, however they are more expensive and may already be working at capacity.
- How do I maintain self isolation with my caregivers working so closely with me? Caregivers need to work closely in order to support us, but you should take great care that they and you are protected.
- SCI Alberta also has online caregiver training modules to help you get a family member trained up in a pinch.
- How do I deal with caregivers cancelling shifts or being unavailable? What if they are exposed to high risk people at another job? CSIL employers are allowed to have family members provide more of your care hours than usual. Contact your health authority case worker for more information or get in touch with Pathways For Independence CSIL employer support group for more information: Pathways@IFRCSociety.org, or 604-777-7576.
Protecting your health is extremely important in this situation. You have every right to maintain your isolation and ask your housemates to do the same. It gets thorny when they refuse or clearly are not, but there aren’t a lot of clear options about what to do next:
- Check out our advice on this from the June 2020 issue of The Spin, in the Spin Doctor article: Your last question is the trickiest. Many Peers are finding it hard to protect themselves from people around them who aren’t taking precautions. First, talk to your doctor or a rehabilitation clinician about your specific risks. Realize that the most powerful actions you can take to protect yourself are personal: wash your hands properly and often, and keep your distance from those around you outside your household. Plan extra cleaning of high-touch surfaces and provide PPE for yourself and caregivers or family who aren’t able to physically distance outside your home. Have a direct conversation or write down your concerns for people in your life who aren’t respecting your precautions. Reduce contact with things they touch like utensils or remote controls, and keep your distance. You can set up a hand washing station with hand sanitizer near your front door so it’s convenient and hard to miss! If you want to talk through how to explain your needs to those around you, reach out to your local peer coordinator or our Infoline team: firstname.lastname@example.org or 1.800.689.2477.
- Consider dividing the house/apartment so that you and your housemate/family member do not share commonly used items like bathrooms, kitchen sinks, computers or TV remotes.
- Ask around to see if anyone you know has a suite or spare room that you or the housemate/family member could use.
- Chat with our Infoline at 1-800-689-2477 about further options.
- Here’s an interesting article in the Guardian with some ideas about how to talk to friends and family who aren’t practicing social distancing and putting you at risk.
- Contact the Provincial Respiratory Outreach Program at Technology for Living, which is operating a call centre with after hours service. Provincial Respiratory Outreach Program (PROP) 1-866-326-1245
- Protecting your lungs, by Dr. Viet Vu (GF Strong Physiatrist): https://technologyforliving.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/BCITS-Balance-NL_July17-Final.pdf
This crisis is an unprecedented challenge to our mental health, and there are resources out there to support you during this time.
Check out this excellent Ask an Expert Mental Health and COVID-19 video with neuropsychiatrist Dr. Brad Hallam from GF Strong.
If you feel that you are out of options and are going to hurt yourself, call 911.
- Are you thinking of suicide?
- What is your plan? / Do you have a plan?
- How and when will you carry it out?
…Then call 911 or ask someone nearby to call for you.
Call the provincial suicide crisis line, open 24/7 if you or someone you know is considering suicide. 1-800-784-2433
- Call 310-6789 (no area code), open 24/7 for non-emergency emotional support and advice, as well as referrals to local health authority services.
- Online Chat Service for Youth: www.YouthInBC.com (Noon to 1am)
- Online Chat Service for Adults: www.CrisisCentreChat.ca (Noon to 1am)
- Kelty’s Key & BC Psychologists Association: Free short term Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) via phone or email to BC residents: https://www.psychologists.bc.ca/keltys-key
- HereToHelp http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/ Excellent page for learning about mental health, mental illness, local resources, and self help assessments and guides.
- Self Management BC: offers online programs to help people with chronic diseases and disabilities, including pain, better manage their mental health and wellness. Courses are free and offered to anyone in BC http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca/ Call 1-866-902-3767 for telephone support.
- SCI Information Database, section on Mental Wellness https://sci-bc.ca/sci-info-database/
- Ask an Expert 5 – Mental Health During COVID-19 An excellent presentation and Q&A with Dr. Bradley Hallam, Vancouver Coastal Health and former GF Strong neuropsychiatrist.
- ReachOut session with Jaisa Sulit, OT and SCI Peer: https://youtu.be/UwLjd5Oe58A
- CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) COVID 19 site https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-health-and-covid-19
- Babylon by Telus Health offers virtual counselling visits for people needing some more support and help managing ongoing mental health concerns. Counselling visits are covered by many forms of extended medical insurance. Look up the Babylon by Telus Health app on your mobile device’s App Store for more information.
SCI & U – resources
In this at-home resource list you’ll find a wealth of information on living day to day while self-isolating. From online games, virtual events, physical activity to grocery shopping tips and hand hygiene for people with SCI.
If you’re looking for resources for mental health and respiratory care refer to this document which addresses depression, the psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it, SCI Respiratory care specific to COVID-19 and much more.
At-home tips for managing anxiety
It’s natural to feel a little anxious during a pandemic! Here are some great points our team learned this week to help manage anxiety during these turbulent times.
Limit access to news
Limiting and being strategic with what you watch or read is really important for your mental well-being. There’s a lot of information out there, so sticking to factual stories and limiting exposure to opinion pieces can be very helpful. It’s also good to remember to help our friends by being very cautious when sharing information on social media by ensuring it is from an accurate source.
Connect with people, but don’t just talk about COVID 19
When you chat with your friends or family, it is important to be creative with your topics. There’s more going on besides the pandemic, and chances are everyone wants a break from thinking and worrying about it. So, reach out in a way that works for you—even a simple text is enough. You can help someone feel connected, which in the long run and has a positive impact on health.
The benefits of exercise for mental health is well established. Staying as physically active as you can during self-isolation can help with anxiety. SCI BC Peer coordinators are offering virtual exercise classes every week: yoga every Thursday and virtual fitness every Friday. If you prefer to work out on your own schedule, we have some wonderful fitness sources here.
Stay busy and have a schedule/plan for each day
Maintaining a healthy routine is important for mental health especially for those now working from home or unable to leave their home. Try getting up at the same time, dress how you normally would, and complete your normal daily routine. One Peer reports that once he started doing this, he felt much better.
Talk to kids in an age-appropriate way.
Let them know there is hope and that what they are doing (eg. not playing with friends) will help keep them safe and help others. Signs that kids are struggling and having anxiety are usually stomach aces, tantrums, and poor sleeping. Keeping an age-appropriate conversation with your children will help them understand what’s going on around them.
Limit screen time
This can be a tough one, but chatting to a friend over the phone, a neighbour at a safe distance, or looking out the window and people or nature-watching can break up the screen time and give you a much-needed break.
Ask people what they need or want
Rather than assuming what will help, just try asking. Chances are your friend or family member will have some idea about what can help. This takes the guesswork out for you, lets them know you’re there for them and validates their needs—which can be very reassuring.
Find humour where you can
Funny movies, tv shows, audio and real books, online humour. There’s a lot out there—take time to enjoy it!
Be creative to find ways to stay connected
Zoom, Face Time, or a simple, but effective telephone call can connect you with a friend or family member. Another popular way to connect is through group chats on Whatsapp. If you apply these ideas you may find you don’t go for a few hours without chatting to someone.
Find a purpose for each day and longer term
Set a small goal for each day—it could be connecting with a friend or trying out a recipe that you’ve been curious about. You can also set longer term goals that take incremental dedication, such as working on an art project or signing up for an online class.
Search COVID-19 Coming Together on Facebook for a Coming Together group near you.
Call Infoline for more support in connecting with help – 1-800-689-2477 or email@example.com
Vancouver / North Vancouver:
Meals on Wheels – Health & Home Care Society of BC www.carebc.ca/meals-on-wheels.html
Jewish Family Services https://www.jewishvancouver.com/community-directory/jewish-family-services
Vancouver Sun Adopt a School https://vancouversun.com/tag/adopt-a-school/
Relief Fund for Low-Income Richmond Residents: Richmond Homeless Connect: Request application form and fund criteria here: firstname.lastname@example.org They will make every effort to give a decision within 3 business days. If the matter is time sensitive and requires a quicker response, please call 604-644-7247 to discuss your referral.
Richmond Food Bank http://richmondfoodbank.org/
Richmond Food Security Society (hampers for families with school-age children) https://www.richmondfoodsecurity.org/
Richmond Cares Richmond Gives https://rcrg.org/
Friendly Support calls can be made to older adults 60+ and persons with disabilities in New Westminster. They can arrange for a staff person or qualified volunteer to call you as needed to: check your safety and health, offer supports or resources, or to socialize (call length may be limited). Support calls will start as soon as possible after registration.
If you wish to register, please call Century House 604-519-1062, or 604-519-1069, or 604-519-1066 from Monday – Friday 9:00am – 4:00 pm.
Tri-Cities – Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody:
Seniors Come Share Society – Seniors Peer Help / Food Delivery/ Home and Day Programs – White Rock and Surrey: https://www.comeshare.ca/
Volunteer Food Delivery and Phone Calls: https://bc.ctvnews.ca/we-are-here-to-help-volunteers-delivering-food-phoning-people-isolated-by-covid-19-1.4857501
Langley Meals on Wheels: www.lmow.ca/
Squamish/Sea To Sky:
Vancouver Island – north of the Greater Victoria area – Capital Regional District:
Beacon Buddies: matching service for support and help for grocery meds and mail pickup for people quarantined. Duncan, Chemainus, Nanaimo, Ladysmith, Qualicum, Parksville, Port Alberni, Campbell River, Comox/Courtenay: www.nanaimobeacon.com/buddies
BC Wide—no community specified:
Resources for All BC First Nation Individuals: https://www.bcafn.ca/sites/default/files/docs/individual.pdf
Acts of local love are more important now than ever, and the United Way is asking everybody to come together to help one another during this difficult time. They want to ensure that everyone in our communities gets the help that they need.
If you need help with basic needs or if you just want to safely connect with people in your neighbourhood let them know. Sign up here: https://www.uwlm.ca/mobilizing-local-love/ and they will connect you to a pre-screened volunteer who can help.
- A facebook group that shares tips about getting through this time
- Links to free grocery delivery
- Can ask for help
- Search facebook for “COVID19 coming together” and touch the “Groups” filter to see all the coming together groups, there is probably one in your area.
Coronavirus SOS –delivery and peer support: https://coronavirussos.org/?fbclid=IwAR0edIc-xKmOYe2x88ejZtndQCZuaVAEvJuI0L0wVamOopofNJb-re1HsMo
Grocery Order/ Meal Delivery
Spud—Offers Free Grocery Delivery —Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island:https://www.spud.ca/index.cfm?lid=1
Walmart—Customers can place an order over the phone and schedule a time for pickup or delivery with one of their customer service representatives. They’re offering contact-free pick up, or touch-free delivery. Here’s how: https://bit.ly/2YCovcz
Better Meals http://bettermeals.ca/index.php/main/links/index
Share the Goods
Stocking a households with food and supplies to hunker down for a few week is a costly endeavour that not everyone can afford. If you can use a little help or are able to provide support, check out this site.
Covid 19 Resources in Five Languages