COVID-19 Info Hub
Coming to SickKids? Learn what to expect ahead of your appointment or stay.
All patients and family caregivers will self screen at hospital entrances for COVID-19 risk factors and symptoms. If you are not feeling well or have any symptoms, please make every effort to find someone else who can bring your child to the hospital. You can complete an online COVID-19 Self-Screening Form before you arrive.
Complete your entrance self-screening online
On the day of your visit, complete our COVID-19 Self-Screening Form before arriving to get through our screening process as smoothly as possible. A form must be completed for the patient and anyone coming to SickKids with them.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms in the last 10 days, had close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, had close contact with somebody experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have recently travelled internationally, please contact your clinic or health-care provider before coming to the hospital:
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Fever and/or chills
- Shortness of breath
- Decrease or loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
SickKids, like all hospitals, is a high-risk setting. If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you cannot visit SickKids for at least 10 days since the positive test or onset of symptoms. If you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you cannot visit SickKids for at least 10 days since your last contact with them. All this applies regardless of your vaccination status.
Please note that Family Presence and Patient Visiting for family caregivers, siblings and visitors has returned to the pre-pandemic policy, and depends on the area of SickKids you are visiting or staying:
- Inpatient Units: Up to 4 family caregivers/siblings/visitors are welcome at a time at the bedside during regular visiting hours (9 a.m. to 9 p.m.) and 1 overnight (9 p.m. to 6 a.m.).
- CCCU/PICU/NICU: Up to 2 family caregivers are welcome at a time at the bedside and 2 overnight.
- Emergency Department (ED): Up to 2 family caregivers are welcome at a time at the bedside.
- Outpatient clinics: Up to 2 family caregivers are welcome to accompany their child to clinic appointments and tests.
Note: Identification badges/stickers will be worn by all family caregivers, siblings and visitors. Everyone 12 and over must self-screen for viral symptoms before entering. All patients as well as children under 12 will be actively screened. Families visiting outpatient clinics and the Emergency Department with siblings are strongly encouraged to make use of Family Spaces due to space constraints.
What do we need to know before coming to SickKids?
Some safety measures remain in place for the protection of patients, families and staff. These include masking in certain areas of the hospital, distancing (whenever possible) and cleaning our hands frequently, as well as limiting our contacts/gathering with others by asking patients and their caregivers to stay in their rooms as much as possible. Everyone 12 and over must self-screen for viral symptoms before entering. All patients as well as children under 12 will be actively screened.
What should I do if I have symptoms and I need to bring my child to SickKids?
Given the rapid transmission of the latest COVID-19 variants, we’re asking all caregivers to avoid coming to the hospital if they have any symptoms. If your child has an appointment or needs to come to the Emergency Department, please make every effort to make arrangements to have another family member or caregiver accompany your child if you’re unwell. If you have any symptoms, or are unsure what to do, please call your provider in advance of your visit for further direction and information.
How does my vaccination status impact my ability as a caregiver to be in the hospital?
Vaccination status will not impact your ability to enter SickKids. However, we continue to encourage you to get your vaccination as it can help prevent severe disease and protects you and those around you. The latest COVID-19 variants are much more contagious than previous variants, and fully vaccinated people are still able to get COVID-19 and pass it on to others.
How long do family caregivers have to wait before coming to SickKids after testing positive for COVID-19 or are in close contact with someone who has COVID-19?
As SickKids, like all hospitals, is a high-risk setting, anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 or is in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 cannot come to SickKids for at least 10 days since the positive test/onset of symptoms/last close contact, regardless of vaccination status. This timeframe is greater than what is allowed for lower-risk settings if you are fully vaccinated. Unless SickKids grants an exception, please wait the full 10 days before coming to the hospital.
- Visitors can enter and exit SickKids using the Elizabeth Street entrance or the parking garage 24/7.
- The University Avenue entrance is open for hospital pick-ups and drop-offs from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday. It is closed on weekends and holidays.
- In addition to regular parking rates, SickKids offers discounted parking passes for parents of patients. Visit Parking for more information.
Masking is optional in most public areas of the hospital, but remains mandatory in patient areas:
- Masking is mandatory when receiving care in patient rooms when staff are present for a prolonged period of time.
- Masking is mandatory in waiting rooms where patients are present and play areas.
- Masking is optional in most public areas of the hospital, including common spaces in clinical areas and waiting areas where patients are not present (e.g., The Larissa Atrens-Mikan Critical Care Family Room and the Family Surgical Waiting Room).
At times when masking is mandatory, everyone age 2 and older is required to wear a hospital-provided mask. Masks are available for adults and children at the entrance. Please take a mask from the dispenser for you and your child when you arrive at the hospital. This policy also applies to family caregivers, visitors, vendors, suppliers, and contractors.
Physical distancing is not always possible and wearing a mask helps to protect everyone at the hospital, including you and your child, from the spread of respiratory viruses.
Please review our frequently asked questions about family/caregiver and patient masking.
Is masking still mandatory at SickKids?
Masking is mandatory in certain areas of the hospital, including when receiving care, in patient rooms when staff are present, in clinics, the Emergency Department and patient waiting rooms and play areas. However, masking is optional in all public areas of the hospital, including common spaces in clinical areas and waiting areas where patients are not present (e.g., The Larissa Atrens-Mikan Critical Care Family Room and the Family Surgical Waiting Room).
Why is masking still important in certain areas at SickKids?
Viruses can be spread by people who do not have any symptoms or who do not realize they are contagious. Masking helps to prevent the spread of infection to other patients and to our staff, especially when physical distancing – staying two metres or six feet apart – is not possible. Wearing a mask in areas where patients are present, such as clinic waiting rooms and play rooms, will help protect the most vulnerable and reduce the risk of outbreaks at SickKids.
How does wearing a mask help?
Masks can decrease the spread of viruses in two ways:
- Wearing a mask helps protect others around you by limiting the spread of your droplets when coughing, sneezing, and speaking.
- Wearing a mask protects you by reducing the chance of inhaling droplets from others around you.
Can I wear my own mask or face covering? What about my child?
In situations where masking is required, you must wear a mask SickKids provides you. To ensure the safety of everyone at SickKids, we are providing masks at our entrances. Not all masks are the same – KN95, N95, disposable and cloth face masks come in a range of qualities, and there are counterfeit products on the market. Since hospital staff are not able to check the quality of masks people wear to the hospital, we require everyone to wear a hospital provided mask. By providing our own masks we can be certain that the one you are wearing will offer the right amount of protection for you and our staff.
If you choose to wear your own mask, you will also have to wear a hospital-provided mask on top.
What if I can’t or don’t want to wear a mask?
At times when masking is mandatory, everyone age 2 and older is required to wear a hospital-provided mask at SickKids. This policy is to protect those around you who may be at a higher risk for severe illness.
If patients of any age are not able to wear a mask safely, they will not have to. If you are a family caregiver who has a legitimate medical condition that prevents you from wearing a mask, contact your SickKids health-care team before your appointment and request an exception. If approved, tell a member of your clinical team that you have an exception, and they will give you a face shield to wear instead.
No exceptions to the policy will be made for other types of visitors.
How do I safely put a mask on and take a mask off?
Our staff can teach you about wearing and removing masks. Have a look at this handy poster (PDF) for a step-by-step guide to wearing and removing a mask properly and safely. Clean your hands before and after putting on or taking off your mask.
How can I be sure a mask fits properly?
Follow this checklist to ensure a mask fits properly:
- Fully covers your mouth, nose and chin once the elastics are secure around ears
- Has minimal gaps between your face and the mask – the mask should fit tightly but not feel uncomfortable
- Does not need to be repositioned or adjusted while being worn
- Is easy to remove safely
A mask that does not fit well can compromise the safety of the person wearing the mask and those around them.
What should I do if my mask gets wet or dirty?
If your mask gets wet or dirty during your appointment, let your health-care team know that you need a new mask.
Can I remove my mask to eat or drink?
You may remove your mask to eat or drink while you are at the hospital if you are in an eating area or in a designated patient space where you can reliably distance from others 2 metres (or 6 feet). You must put on your mask when a staff member enters the room.
What should be done with the mask if I need to take it off?
Clean your hands first and remove your mask carefully by handling the ear loops. Do not touch your face. Place it on a clean piece of paper towel or inside a plastic container. If you are changing to a fresh mask or leaving the hospital, be sure to dispose of your mask in a waste container.
Will all patients be asked to wear a mask at SickKids?
Masking for children depends on a lot of things including age, ability, willingness, and safety. We will mask patients age 2 and older, but if your child is not able or willing to wear a mask, they will not have to.
We will not mask children younger than 2 for safety reasons. Please discuss with your health-care provider if you have any questions.
If your child is COVID-19 positive or has any COVID-19 risk factors (travel history, exposure to COVID-19, or symptoms) and is 2 years or older, they will be required to wear a hospital-provided mask.
Why can’t children under the age of 2 wear masks?
It is understood that masking children under the age of 2 could be a safety risk for many reasons, including an increased risk of introducing germs to their face when touching or moving the mask and possible choking or strangulation.
What suggestions can you offer to help my child understand why wearing a mask is important for them and others?
Masks can be confusing to children, depending on their age. That is why we recommend age-appropriate explanations, play therapy and role modelling to help kids accept and wear their masks.
For older children, answer their questions in simple language that they will understand, saying masks will help stop COVID-19 from spreading and keep you safe. For younger children, try focusing on germs and how masks can help keep them away.
SickKids can also help with trained staff members who are able to talk to children and videos by our Child Life specialists related to masking and other topics.
How do I decide if my child is able and willing to wear a mask?
Caregivers know their children best, including what they can and cannot do.
- Do you think your child will want to touch or play with the mask?
- Is your child sensitive to new types of clothing/coverings?
If so, it may not be safe for them to wear a mask. It is important that children who are asked to wear masks follow the instructions for putting a mask on safely, which means not touching, adjusting, or playing with the mask because this reduces its effectiveness.
My child is older than age 2 and cannot wear a mask. What can I do if I'm told they need to wear a mask?
We understand that not all children, regardless of age, will be able or willing to wear a mask. In certain cases, your health-care team will speak to you about alternatives.
What is important to know about children wearing masks?
Safety is the most important thing to consider when masking children, which is the reason we look at factors other than age. Safety risks include:
- increased difficulty breathing
- introducing germs to the face by frequently adjusting the mask
- reduced ability to communicate
- anxiety or fear
- greater risk for misidentification by health-care providers without facial recognition
Masks should not be used for children under age 2 who are not able to understand how to wear a mask or communicate if they become distressed. It is important that staff assess the child carefully and regularly and always ensure that patient identification arm bands are in place and used to confirm the child’s identity.
SickKids continues to perform emergent, urgent and time-sensitive surgeries and procedures. To ensure that we have the capacity for any unplanned increase in hospital activity and that our clinical staff are available to provide care, some other surgeries and procedures may be rescheduled. We recognize that delays caused by the COVID-19 situation are difficult for patients and their families. SickKids will contact patients and families directly when it is time to reschedule surgeries and procedures that have been postponed due to the pandemic — there is no need to contact the hospital at this time.
My child has been waiting a long time for surgery and I haven’t heard any news. Why is it taking so long?
We know your child has been waiting for surgery for a very long time. We want you to know that we care and we have not forgotten about you. Unfortunately, there are thousands of children on our waitlist for surgery and it’s probably not a matter of months before we get to everyone, but years.
Can you tell me where my child is on the waitlist?
It’s not possible to say where your child is on the waitlist as it fluctuates constantly depending on the numbers of urgent and emergency cases.
How can I ensure the urgency of my child's surgery is being considered when it is rescheduled?
An ethics framework framework document and new waitlist management system was developed by our staff and family advisors to ensure we continue to treat patients fairly and equitably. The timing of surgeries and procedures will consider many factors to ensure patient needs are met in the safest and most timely manner possible.
Is the surgical waitlist situation showing any signs of improvement?
The situation doesn’t look like it’s going to get better very soon. While we have received additional funding thanks to the support of the government, there is more to the issue as we’re also facing a shortage of health-care workers, a shortage that is affecting the entire globe.
Why can’t SickKids hire more surgeons to get through the waitlist faster?
Every surgery is a team effort. The surgeon, while an integral part, requires support from many other staff members, including anesthesiologists, nurses (anesthetists and operating room), surgical technicians, residents or medical students, and physician assistants. We can’t proceed with surgeries safely unless we have a complete surgical team, and the lack of skilled health-care workers is holding us back from doing more.
If I receive a call saying my child could have the surgery done sooner at another hospital, what should I do?
We strongly recommend anyone who is offered a spot for surgery at a community hospital to take it and not wait for SickKids as these procedures don’t need to be done here.
What is SickKids doing to help address these issues?
Until we are able to ramp up our workforce through our multiple recruitment efforts, the situation will remain difficult. We continue to work hard with the resources we have to perform as many surgeries as possible, including on weekends when staff are available. We sincerely appreciate your patience and understanding. We will call you as soon as we have any news about scheduling your child’s surgery.
My child turned 18 and is still on the waitlist. What happens now?
We are committed to completing the care we started before it was interrupted by COVID-19 for all of our patients. If your child turned 18 during this time, there is no need to be concerned. Your health-care team will continue to care for your child until the surgery or procedure is finished, including any follow-up treatment or appointments that are necessary afterwards. In some cases, your child’s surgical team may consult with surgeons at an adult centre and, where appropriate, your child's care may be transitioned to an adult centre.
I am not very comfortable coming to SickKids. What are my options and what safety protocols are in place?
We will continue to offer virtual care first when possible, but if a surgery or other procedure needs to be performed, it will be necessary to come to the hospital. Safety is our number one priority at all times for everyone. For those coming to the hospital we are maintaining a number of safety measures to keep everyone healthy, including screening, masking in certain areas of the hospital, and physical distancing.
What supports are in place for my child if they are feeling anxious about having surgery or coming to the hospital?
Our staff are trained to support children who are anxious. Your health-care team can also connect you with our Child Life Specialists, who have a number of programs in place and prepared videos to help your child feel comfortable at all times at SickKids. You can also refer to the AboutKidsHealth COVID-19 Learning Hub for resources.