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.
There is a new public health tool in place for protecting the community from COVID-19 infection. Starting October 21, 2020 at 3:00pm, if people who have COVID-19 or are close contacts do not follow public health guidance for self-isolation, then they can be fined under a Medical Officer of Health Section 22 Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. See media release for more information.
Information for parents: You are required to isolate yourself, or your dependent in the case of a person under 16 years of age identified in a), b), c), d), or e) without delay in accordance with instructions provided by the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit. This includes remaining in your home or isolation facility.
- 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 (e.g., up to 2 days before they were sick).
- The individual with COVID-19 is directed to self-isolate for 10 days from symptom onset, and provided guidance on how to do this (they receive this document after their test). 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).
COVID Alert App
Our system of case management and contact tracing is separate from the COVID Alert App. The COVID Alert App is an additional measure to help limit the spread of COVID-19 by notifying you if you (or your phone) have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive. This app does NOT send any information to Public Health, but may advise you to call us if needed so we can provide follow up, additional information and support.
Get more information on the COVID Alert App and how to download it, here.
- Close contacts are at a higher risk of becoming infected and sharing the virus with others, and are referred to as high-risk contacts.
- A high-risk contact is anyone who has had prolonged contact (defined as 15 minutes or more all at once or several short interactions added up) within close distance (less than 2m/6ft apart).
- A high-risk 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 high-risk contacts. Examples include walking by or briefly being in the same room.
What do you do if you are a high-risk contact?
- Anyone who is deemed a high-risk contact will be contacted by Public Health and provided support and guidance.
- High-risk contacts are required to self-isolate for 14 days following their last known exposure to the individual with COVID-19.
- If high-risk 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, high-risk 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 high-risk contacts They can be tested at an assessment centre (even without symptoms).
- If a high-risk contact tests positive for COVID-19, public health will initiate case management with that individual (see case management section above).
- ALL household members of a high-risk contact will be asked to stay home for the duration of the high-risk contact’s self-isolation period, except for essential reasons. Essential reasons include attending work/school/childcare and essential errands such as groceries, attending medical appointments or picking up prescriptions.
- If you are a high-risk contact AND experiencing symptoms – your household members are required to isolate as per Public Health direction.
*If you are self-isolating – please check out the Mental Wellness and Health Equity pages of our website to see what resources and supports are available. You can also call 1-800-660-5853 for further assistance.
- Most individuals can discontinue isolation at 10 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.
- High-risk contacts should be tested for COVID-19 at appropriate intervals after their exposure to the virus.
- High-risk contacts must remain in isolation for 14 days from the date of exposure to the virus even if they receive a negative test result.
- If you are self-isolating because a household member was displaying symptoms (without being a high-risk contact) – you can stop isolating when a negative test result is received for the symptomatic person, OR an alternate diagnosis is received from a health care professional, OR, in the event the symptomatic person does not seek testing – then after 14 days have passed from your last contact with that individual.
- If you had tested positive for COVID-19, once public health has cleared you from isolation, you are no longer infectious or at risk of spreading COVID-19 to others. We do not know about the long-term immunity yet – so you are still required to abide by all public health prevention measures.
- 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 10 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.