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. This is particularly important to prevent the transmission of the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

You must isolate if you:

You may need to isolate if you were exposed to someone who has covid 19 or symptoms of covid 19.

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 of 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 symptoms, you and anyone you live with must isolate for five days if you are fully vaccinated and otherwise healthy, or are under 12 years of age.

You can end isolation after five days only if your symptoms have improved for at least 24 hours, and all public health and safety measures, such as masking and physical distancing, are followed. If 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).

If you are not fully vaccinated or are immunocompromised, you and anyone you live with must isolate for 10 days.

If you work or live in a high risk-health care setting, including hospitals, long-term care, retirement homes, congregate living settings, you must notify your employer and isolate for 10 days from your exposure or symptom onset, or from your date of diagnosis. To ensure sufficient staffing levels, workers in these settings will have the opportunity to return to work early on day seven of their isolation, with a negative PCR test, or two negative rapid antigen tests on day six and seven.

If you’ve been exposed to someone with symptoms of covid 19 or who has received a positive test result

If you are fully vaccinated, have no symptoms, do not live with the positive case and are otherwise healthy

  • self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days after your last exposure
  • wear a mask, practise physical distancing, and follow all other public health measures if leaving home
  • do not visit any high-risk settings or people who may be at higher risk of illness (such as seniors) for 10 days after your last exposure

If you are not fully vaccinated or are immunocompromised

  • isolate for 10 days (or for five days if you are under 12) after your last exposure, regardless of whether you have any symptoms
If you live, work, attend, volunteer, or have been admitted in a high-risk setting such as:
  • 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, and correctional institutions
  • First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities

Notify them of the exposure and do not go there for 10 days from your last exposure, when the symptoms began, or when you were diagnosed. To ensure sufficient staffing levels, workers will have the opportunity to return to work early on day seven of their isolation with a negative PCR test, or two negative rapid antigen tests on day six and seven. If you live in a high-risk setting, you should isolate regardless of vaccination status.

If you develop any symptoms, you and your household must isolate for five days from the onset of your symptoms if you are fully vaccinated and otherwise healthy, or if you are under 12 years of age. If you are not fully vaccinated or are immunocompromised you must isolate for 10 days since your symptoms began.

If you live with someone who has symptoms of covid 19 or has tested positive for the virus

You must isolate for the same amount of time as the positive case, regardless of your vaccination status.

If you have a positive test result

Isolate

If you test positive from a PCR test, rapid molecular test, or a rapid antigen test, you must isolate. If you tested positive on a rapid antigen test, you no longer need to book a PCR test to confirm your results.

If you are fully vaccinated and otherwise healthy, or are under 12 years old, you must isolate for five days from when your symptoms began or from the date of your test, whichever came first. You can end isolation after five days if your symptoms are improved for at least 24 hours, and all public health and safety measures, such as masking and physical distancing, are followed.

If you are not fully vaccinated or are immunocompromised, you must isolate for 10 days after your symptoms began or your positive test result, whichever came first.

The people you live with must also isolate at the same time as you, whether they are fully vaccinated or not.

If you work or live in a high risk-health care setting, including hospitals, long-term care, retirement homes, congregate living settings, you must notify your employer and isolate for 10 days from their your exposure or symptom onset, or from your date of diagnosis. To ensure sufficient staffing levels, workers in these settings will have the opportunity to return to work early on day seven of their isolation, with a negative PCR test, or two negative rapid antigen tests on day six and seven.

Contact your doctor, health care provider, or Telehealth for more information and guidance.

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.

Step Two: Get tested for covid 19 if you are eligible

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

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

If you have covid 19 symptoms

You are eligible for PCR testing if you have at least one covid 19 symptom and you are:

  • 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 hospital or congregate living setting (including long-term care, retirement homes, First Nation elder care lodges, group homes, shelters, hospices and correctional institutions)
  • a household member of workers in the highest risk settings above
  • an outpatient being considered for covid 19 treatment
  • a temporary foreign worker in living in a congregate setting
  • underhoused or homeless
  • someone who has been exposed, or a close contact of someone exposed, to a confirmed or suspected outbreak in a high risk setting, including a hospital, long-term care, retirement home, other congregate living setting or institution, or other settings as directed by the local public health unit
  • 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

If you do not have symptoms

If you do not have symptoms, you are eligible for PCR testing if you:

  • are from a First Nation, Inuit, or Métis community or are travelling into these communities for work
  • are being admitted or transferred to or from a hospital or congregate living setting
  • are someone who has been exposed, or a close contact of someone exposed, to a confirmed or suspected outbreak in a high risk setting, including a hospital, long-term care, retirement home, other congregate living setting or institution, or other settings as directed by the local public health unit
  • 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 test, find a testing location near you.

If you are not eligible for a test but have symptoms of covid 19, assume that you have covid 19 and isolate with your household for five days if you are fully vaccinated and otherwise healthy or are under 12 years old. If you are not fully vaccinated or are immunocompromised, isolate for 10 days. If you were exposed to someone with covid 19, follow the guidance outlined above.

Rapid antigen testing

Rapid antigen testing may be used for routine, repeated screening of people with no symptoms to identify and prevent cases of covid 19 in hospitals, long-term care and retirement homes, and other high-risk settings as an added layer of safety. Rapid antigen testing may also be used to test people with symptoms to find out the likelihood that their symptoms are related to covid 19.

If you or someone you live with gets a positive result on a rapid antigen test, you no longer need to book a PCR test to confirm your results. If you are fully vaccinated and otherwise healthy, or are under 12 years old, isolate for five days starting when the symptoms began or from the date of the test, whichever came first. Those who are not fully vaccinated or are immunocompromised must isolate for 10 days.

A positive result:

  • is a good indication that you have covid 19
  • does not need to be confirmed by a PCR test
  • does not need to be reported to a public health unit unless otherwise directed by public health

A negative result:

  • on a single test cannot rule out covid 19 infection by itself
  • if you have symptoms, should be followed by a second test 24 to 48 hours later if available. If your second test taken within 48 hours of your first negative result is also negative, this most likely means you do not have covid 19
    • if you feel unwell but have tested negative for COVID-19covid 19, you and your household should isolate until your symptoms have improved for at least 24 hours (or 48 hours if the symptoms affect the digestive system).

Step Three: Inform your close contacts of their exposure

If you have symptoms of covid 19 or have tested positive on a covid 19 test, 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. Close contacts in schools should follow the school-based guidance.

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 Ontario.ca/COVID-19-people-support.

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