What to do if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19

If you think you may have COVID-19 or were exposed to the virus, follow these steps to take care of yourself and protect others.

Note: If your local public health unit has provided you with conflicting guidance, please follow the recommendations of your local health unit.

Step One: Confirm if you need to isolate

If you have COVID-19, isolating will help stop the spread of the virus.

You must isolate if you:

You may need to isolate if you:

You do not need to isolate, but must still monitor for symptoms and take all necessary precautions:

The COVID-19 self-assessment tool can also tell you what to do next. Take it for yourself or on behalf of someone else and receive recommendations on what to do if you’ve been exposed.

Take the COVID-19 self-assessment

If you have symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, assume that you may have the virus and may be contagious.

Symptoms include:

  • fever or chills
  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • decreased or loss of taste or smell
  • two or more of:
    • runny nose or nasal congestion
    • headache
    • extreme fatigue
    • sore throat
    • muscle aches or joint pain
    • gastrointestinal symptoms (such as vomiting or diarrhea)

If you have these symptoms, you must isolate:

  • for at least five days if you are:
  • for at least 10 days if you are:
    • over the age of 12 and not fully vaccinated
    • immunocompromised
    • live in a highest risk setting

Your isolation period begins the day after you noticed your symptoms or the day after you received a positive test result – whichever came first. The day you first noticed symptoms or took the test is considered day zero.

If you reach the end of your isolation period and have a fever or other symptoms, you must continue to isolate until your symptoms have improved for at least 24 hours (or 48 hours if the symptoms affect the digestive system) and you have no fever.

If you feel sick but your symptoms are not in the list above, stay home until you feel better for at least 24 hours (or 48 hours if the symptoms affect the digestive system).

After you finish isolating

For five days (or 10 days if you are immunocompromised) after your isolation period ends, you must continue to wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings.

You can temporarily remove your mask for essential activities (such as when eating in shared space at school/work while still maintaining as much distancing from others as possible).

You can participate in activities where masking can be maintained throughout, but you should avoid activities where mask removal would be necessary (such as dining out).

Anyone who is exempt may return to public settings without masking, but they should:

  • avoid visiting anyone who is immunocompromised or at higher risk of illness (for example, seniors)
  • not visit or go to work in any highest risk settings

If you develop severe symptoms requiring medical attention, such as shortness of breath or chest pain, call 911 and inform them that you may have COVID-19.

If you live with someone who has symptoms or has tested positive for COVID-19

You do not need to isolate if one of the following applies to you:

  • you have previously tested positive in the last 90 days and do not have symptoms
  • you are over 18 years old and have received a COVID-19 booster dose and do not have symptoms
  • you are under 18 years old and are fully vaccinated and do not have symptoms

Instead for 10 days after exposure:

  • self-monitor for symptoms
  • wear a mask and avoid activities where mask removal would be necessary
  • do not visit anyone who is at higher risk of illness, such as seniors, or any highest risk settings (unless you previously tested positive in past 90 days)

If you do not meet any of the criteria above, you must isolate while the person with symptoms/positive test result isolates (or for 10 days if you are immunocompromised).

If you’ve been exposed to someone from another household with symptoms of COVID-19 or a positive test result

You are required to:

  • self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days after your last exposure
  • wear a mask, avoid activities where mask removal is necessary (such as dining out, high contact sports) and follow all other public health measures if leaving home
  • do not visit any highest-risk settings (such as long-term care or retirement homes) or people who may be at higher risk of illness (such as seniors) for 10 days after your last exposure

If you live, work, attend, volunteer, or have been admitted in one of the highest-risk settings

You are required to:

  • tell them you’ve been exposed
  • avoid going there for 10 days from your last exposure, unless you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and have no symptoms.

The highest-risk settings include:

  • hospitals and health care settings, including complex continuing care facilities and acute care facilities
  • congregate living settings, such as long-term care and retirement homes, First Nation elder care lodges, group homes, shelters, hospices, temporary foreign worker settings, correctional institutions and hospital schools
  • home and community care settings

To help ensure sufficient staffing levels, workers in these settings may be asked to return to work earlier than 10 days, with additional precautions such as testing. Speak with your employer for more information.

Step Two: Get assessed for treatment or tested if you are eligible

Antiviral treatments are now available for those with symptoms and a positive test result (PCR or rapid antigen test) who are at higher risk of severe COVID-19. These treatments must be taken immediately within the first five to seven days (depending on the treatment) of symptom onset.

Find out more about antiviral treatment options or talk to your health care provider.

Rapid antigen testing

In addition to receiving rapid antigen tests from the federal government, Ontario is directly procuring additional tests to ensure sufficient provincial supply.

Rapid antigen tests continue to be available through the Provincial Antigen Screening Program for any organization that is open and has employees working on-site.

To further support the province’s cautious easing of public health measures, the Ontario government expanded access to free rapid antigen tests to the general public for at-home use. Since February 9, 2022, rapid antigen tests have been available for free through more than 3,100 participating grocery and pharmacy locations and targeted distribution to high priority communities through High Priority Community lead agencies and community-based primary care sites. Rapid tests in these locations will be available until at least July 2022.

If you have tested positive on a rapid antigen test, you don’t need a PCR test to confirm the result.

Learn more information on rapid antigen tests and where to get them.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing

To ensure that resources are available to focus on the highest-risk settings, protecting our most vulnerable Ontarians and helping to keep critical infrastructure services running, publicly funded PCR or rapid molecular testing is available to individuals that meet at least one of the criteria below.

You are eligible for PCR testing if you have at least one COVID-19 symptom and you are any of the following :

  • a patient-facing health care worker
  • a patient in an emergency department, at the discretion of the treating clinician
  • a staff member, volunteer, resident, inpatient, essential care provider, or visitor in a highest risk setting
  • a home and community care worker
  • a student or staff at a Provincial Demonstration School or a hospital school
  • are at higher-risk for severe COVID-19 and would be eligible for COVID-19 antiviral treatment or other outpatient treatment (treatment outside hospital) following an assessment and positive test
  • someone who lives with a patient-facing health care worker and/or a worker in the highest risk settings
  • an outpatient who requires a diagnostic test for clinical management
  • a temporary foreign worker living in a congregate setting
  • underhoused or experiencing homelessness
  • pregnant
  • a first responder, including firefighters, police and paramedics
  • an elementary or secondary student or education staff who has received a PCR self-collection kit, if available through your school
  • directed by your local public health unit

Whether you have symptoms or not, you are eligible for PCR or rapid point-of-care molecular testing if you:

  • are from a First Nation, Inuit, or Métis community or self-identify as First Nation, Inuit or Métis or live with someone who does
  • are travelling into First Nation, Inuit or Métis communities for work
  • are being admitted or transferred to or from a hospital or congregate living setting
  • are a close contact in a confirmed or suspected outbreak in a highest risk setting, or other settings as directed by the local public health unit
  • are scheduled for a surgical procedure requiring general anesthetic in the next 24-48 hours
  • have written prior approval for out-of-country medical services from the General Manager of OHIP or are a caregiver for someone who does
  • are in a hospital, long-term care, retirement home or other congregate living setting, as directed by public health units, provincial guidance or other directives

If you are eligible for a PCR or rapid molecular test, find a testing location near you.

If you have symptoms but are not eligible for testing, assume you have COVID-19 and follow the guidance outlined above.

Step Three: Inform others of your exposure

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have tested positive, tell your close contacts that they have been exposed. A close contact is anyone you were less than two metres away from for at least 15 minutes, or multiple shorter lengths of time, without personal protective equipment in the 48 hours before your symptoms began or your positive test result, whichever came first.

Informing your contact will help stop the spread of the virus. Give them the link to this webpage, ontario.ca/exposed, so they can protect themselves and their contacts. Your close contacts should follow the advice for being exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Supports if you need to isolate

If you require assistance while isolating, visit the COVID-19: Support for people page.

You can also contact your public health unit for support including:

  • use of isolation facilities
  • referral to community supports and agencies
  • mental health supports
  • courier and delivery supports for food and necessities
  • additional resources available to support isolation through the High Priority Communities strategy