While COVID-19 is a new virus, case management and contact tracing is something that is well established in Public Health. The Health Unit does this work for a variety of infectious diseases and sexually transmitted infections.
- When a COVID-19 positive case is identified this triggers an investigation by public health. Public health staff interviews the individual as soon as possible to assess the potential exposures in the previous 14 days that may have led to developing COVID-19, and to identify everyone they’ve had a close contact with during the time they may have been infectious (i.e. up to 2 days before they were sick).
- The individual with COVID-19 is directed to self-isolate for 14 days from symptom onset, and provided guidance on how to do this. In addition, they are asked to monitor their symptoms.
- Public health staff follows the individual for the duration of the illness to provide support and give advice such as getting enough rest, eating nutritious food, staying hydrated with fluids like water, and managing their symptoms with over the counter medications.
- Contact tracing is a process that is used to identify, educate and monitor individuals who have had a close contact with someone who is infected with a disease.
- Public health staff helps individuals with COVID-19 to recall everyone they’ve had a close contact with during the time they may have been infectious (i.e. up to 2 days before they were sick).
- Close contacts are at a higher risk of becoming infected and sharing the virus with others.
- A close contact is anyone who has had a prolonged contact (15 minutes or more) within close distance (less than 2m/6ft apart).
- A close contact may be:
- a person who provided care for an individual with COVID-19, including healthcare workers, family member or other caregivers, or
- who had other similar close physical contact or
- who lived with or otherwise had close, prolonged contact with a probable or confirmed case while the case was ill.
- Low risk or casual interactions are not considered close contacts. Examples include walking by or briefly being in the same room.
What do you do if you are a close contact?
- Anyone who is deemed a close contact will be contacted by Public Health and will be provided with support and guidance.
- Close contacts are required to self-isolate for 14 days following their last known exposure to the individual with COVID-19.
- If close contacts live in the same household as someone who has tested positive, they are advised on precautions to take. Self-isolation: Guide for caregivers, household members and close contacts.
- While in self-isolation, close contacts are asked to monitor their symptoms of COVID-19, and are advised to seek medical attention or call 911 if needed (e.g. chest pain, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing). Ontario’s online self-assessment tool can be used to monitor symptoms.
- Public Health will discuss testing with close contacts They can be tested at an assessment centre (even without symptoms).
- Brockville: Open to walk-ins. Monday to Friday 10:00am–5:30pm and Saturday and Sunday 10:00am–2:30pm
- Smiths Falls: By appointment only. Call 613) 283-2330 extension 1401, Monday to Friday 8:00am–6:00pm and Saturday 10:00am–4:00pm.
- Almonte: By appointment only. Call 613-325-1208, Monday to Saturday 10:00am–6:00pm.
- If a close contact tests positive for COVID-19, public health will initiate case management with that individual (see case management section above).
- Most individuals can discontinue isolation at 14 days after symptom onset, provided they have no fever and symptoms are improving. Absence of cough is not required for those with a chronic cough or a post-viral cough.
- Close contacts will be tested for COVID-19. If they are positive then contact tracing will be done for them and they will stay in isolation until 14 days.
- If close contacts do not develop symptoms they can discontinue isolation after 14 days following their last known exposure to the individual with COVID-19.
- Return to all public health measures as advised for the general public: limit close contacts, stay home as much as possible, practice physical distancing and thorough hand hygiene, clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces, and use a cloth face covering when physical distancing is a challenge or when required indoors.
Are staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 allowed to work in long-term care and retirement homes?
The Ministry of Health recommendation is that staff who test positive and have mild to moderate symptoms should be home on self-isolation. They can return to work after 14 days and they have no fever and their symptoms are improving.
Many people who are infected with COVID-19 have very mild symptoms and for a few no symptoms at all. In a person without symptoms, the test does not distinguish between those who are able to spread the infection from those who are not, as the test may remain positive even after a person has fully recovered. The recommendation is still that the person self-isolate for 14 days from the time the test was taken.
A further Ministry of Health recommendation states that, in exceptional circumstances, a staff person who tests positive may work with full protective equipment after 72 hours of symptoms resolving. This may include staff shortages. When all alternative staffing supports are exhausted, staff infected with COVID-19 may be able to return to the workplace when certain conditions are met to ensure that patient care needs can be met. Whenever possible, these staff will provide care only to residents that are also positive for COVID-19. In all cases, protective equipment, such as masks, and other measures are put in place to prevent spread to other people.
All staff working in long-term care and retirement homes are currently required to wear masks at all times, and this decreases the risk of COVID-19 transmission to residents and other staff before it is known that they are infected.
- Even if you do not have symptoms, you MUST self-isolate for 14 days. Failure to comply with this Order is an offence under the Quarantine Act.
- The Government of Canada has new rules for travelers arriving in Canada.
- An official global travel advisory is in effect: Avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice. The Canada/US border remains closed to non-essential travel. Get updates here: Government of Canada Travel Advice
- If you plan on traveling within Ontario or to other Canadian provinces – we recommend you check with the province or region before you make plans. Some provinces have mandatory 14 day isolation periods in effect for visitors and/or may not be recommending non-essential travel yet.