Skip to content

Case and Contact Tracing

Explore the tabs below to see the guidance for those with symptoms, positive tests and their close contacts. Still have questions? Call the Provincial COVID-19 Testing and Isolation Information Line at 1-888-777-0730 open 7 days a week from 8:00am–6:00pm.

Anti-viral treatments are now available by prescription for free to people with COVID-19 who are at higher risk of progressing to severe disease requiring hospitalization. It’s important to begin these treatments within 5 days of symptom onset, even if symptoms are mild, so prompt testing is needed. Public Health Units are not involved in assessing eligibility for or dispensing these treatments. Use this screening tool for people at higher-risk for severe COVID-19 to see if you are eligible to be tested with a PCR test and assessed for antiviral treatments, such as Paxlovid, in Ontario. This should be administered within 5 days of symptoms starting (even if symptoms are mild). To find a test centre that can also assess you for antiviral treatment use the screening tool.

In general, these are the groups that are eligible for antiviral treatment:

See this handout about Paxlovid, who is eligible and how to access it in Ontario.

Check the updated COVID-19 assessment tool – click here for the latest version.

Symptoms include:

  • One of:
    • 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 of COVID-19 then assume you may have the virus, and may be contagious.

  • Monitor your symptoms, and 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
  • If you do a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) then:
    • A positive RAT indicates COVID-19 infection, confirmatory PCR testing is not needed.
    • Two negative RATs 24–48 hours apart indicate COVID-19 is unlikely, stay home until symptoms are improving and use a mask when out and follow other precautions.
    • If negative – re-test if symptoms persist, worsen, or new ones arise.
  • If you qualify for a PCR test then:
    • A positive PCR test indicates COVID-19 infection
    • A negative test indicates COVID-19 unlikely, stay home until symptoms are improving and use a mask when out and follow other precautions. If you develop new or worsening symptoms, get re-tested.

Click here to view a flowchart with guidance for people with symptoms and their households.

12 years+ and fully vaccinated (or less than 12 years old):

  • Stay home and isolate from others in the home for 5 days from the start of your symptoms (first day of symptoms is counted as day zero) and until symptoms are improving for 24 hours (or 48 hours if vomiting or diarrhea), whichever is longer in duration.
  • *Note* While those who are fully vaccinated or under 12 can stop isolating after 5 full days if symptoms have improved as stated above – it is still required to wear a mask outside the home, avoid activities that require mask removal in public (like dining out or high contact sports) and avoid visiting high risk settings or anyone vulnerable for days 6–10.
  • Household members that do not meet the criteria below must self-isolate while you are self-isolating. If any of the following apply to your household members, they do not need to isolate:
    • They have previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days,
    • They are 18+ and boosted
    • They are under 18 years old and are fully vaccinated
  • Notify high risk contacts (anyone you had close contact with starting from 2 days before your symptoms started) and advise them to follow the guidance for High Risk Contacts in the tabs below.
  • Immune-compromised close contacts should self-isolate for 10 days from their last exposure to the symptomatic/positive person, regardless of vaccination status.

Unvaccinated (and 12 years or older) or immune-compromised

  • Stay home and isolate from others in the house for 10 days from the start of your symptoms (first day of symptoms is counted as day zero) and until symptoms are improving for 24 hours (or 48 hours if vomiting or diarrhea), whichever is longer in duration.
  • Household members (without symptoms) should isolate for the same period of time as the person with symptoms.
  • Notify high risk contacts (anyone you had close contact with starting from 2 days before your symptoms started) – and advise them to follow the guidance for High Risk Contacts in the tabs below.
  • Immune-compromised close contacts should self-isolate for 10 days from their last exposure to the symptomatic/positive person, regardless of vaccination status.

A fully-vaccinated or unvaccinated worker in a highest risk setting (hospital, and health care setting, congregate care settings)

  • Notify employer and follow their directions
  • Arrange a PCR test
  • Self-isolate while waiting for results.
  • If test is positive then isolate for 5 full days from onset of symptoms (and until you have no fever, other symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours – 48 hours for any gastrointestinal symptoms) and do not return to work for 10 days from onset of symptoms (first day of symptoms or day of positive test – whichever occurred first – is counted as day zero).
  • Household members that do not meet the criteria below must self-isolate while you are self-isolating. If any of the following apply to your household members, they do not need to isolate:
    • They have previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days,
    • They are 18 + and boosted
    • They are under 18 years old and are fully vaccinated
  • Notify close contacts (anyone you had close contact with starting from 2 days before your symptoms started) and advise them to follow the guidance for High Risk Contacts in the tabs below.
  • Immune-compromised close contacts should self-isolate for 10 days from their last exposure to the symptomatic/positive person, regardless of vaccination status.

This advice only applies to those with presumed or confirmed COVID-19 infections in the previous 90 days who are experiencing a new onset of symptoms. If you had COVID-19 longer than 90 days ago, you must follow the general guidance above.

  • Presumed means you had symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (but no test to confirm)
  • Confirmed means you tested positive for COVID-19 (with either a PCR or Rapid Antigen Test)

If you are experiencing symptoms again after having close contact with someone with COVID-19 – then assume this is a new COVID-19 infection, isolate and get tested if eligible. Click here to view a flowchart with guidance for people with symptoms and their households.

If you are experiencing symptoms again and have had no known recent contact with someone who has COVID-19 – then it depends on some details of your previous infection:

  • If your previous infection was confirmed by a test (PCR or Rapid Antigen): You can assume your current symptoms are less likely to be a new case of COVID-19 and just stay home until your symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours (with no fever, and gastro symptoms must be improving for 48 hours).
  • If your previous infection was presumed by symptoms, but not confirmed with a test, and:
    • You had close contact with someone who did test positive (either PCR or rapid) before your previous infection – then you can assume your current symptoms are less likely to be a new case of COVID-19 and just stay home until your symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours (with no fever, and gastro symptoms must be improving for 48 hours).
    • You had no known contact with someone who had COVID-19 before your previous infection – then you should assume your current symptoms are COVID-19, isolate and get tested if eligible. Click here to view a flowchart with guidance for people with symptoms and their households.

A positive test result on a PCR or RAT means COVID-19 infection. Follow the guidance below. 

If you are:

  • Fully vaccinated or less than 12 years old
    • Stay home and isolate from others in the home for 5 days from the start of your symptoms (first day of symptoms is counted as day zero)
    • *Note* While those who are fully vaccinated or under 12 can stop isolating after 5 full days if symptoms have improved as described above – it is still required to wear a mask outside the home, avoid activities that require mask removal in public (like dining out or high contact sports) and avoid high-risk settings or visiting anyone vulnerable for days 6–10.
    • Household members that do not meet the criteria below must self-isolate while you are self-isolating. If any of the following apply to your household members, they do not need to isolate:
      • They have previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days,
      • They are 18+ and boosted
      • They are under 18 years old and are fully vaccinated
    • Notify close contacts (anyone you had close contact with starting from 2 days before your symptoms started or you tested positive) and advise them to follow the guidance for High Risk Contacts in the tabs below.
    • Immune-compromised close contacts should self-isolate for 10 days from their last exposure to the symptomatic/positive person, regardless of vaccination status.
    • Notify your employer if you work in a high-risk setting
  • Unvaccinated (and 12 years or older) or immune-compromised
    • Stay home for 10 days and isolate from others in the house. The day you tested positive or the day your symptoms began is counted as day zero.
    • Household members that do not meet the criteria below must self-isolate while you are self-isolating. If any of the following apply to your household members, they do not need to isolate:
      • They have previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days,
      • They are 18+ and boosted
      • They are under 18 years old and are fully vaccinated
    • Notify close contacts (anyone you had close contact with starting from 2 days before your symptoms started or you tested positive) and advise them to follow the guidance for High Risk Contacts in the tabs below.
    • Immune-compromised close contacts should self-isolate for 10 days from their last exposure to the symptomatic/positive person, regardless of vaccination status.
    • Notify your employer if you work in a high-risk setting
    • *Note: Severely immune-compromised individuals who test positive should isolate for 20 days since it may take longer to clear the virus.
      • Examples of severe immune compromise include cancer chemotherapy, untreated HIV infection with CD4 T lymphocyte count <200, combined primary immunodeficiency disorder, taking prednisone >20 mg/day (or equivalent) for more than 14 days and taking other immune suppressive medication  
  • While in self-isolation, monitor your symptoms of COVID-19, and 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.
  • A high risk close contact is anyone that a person having symptoms of COVID-19 or that tested positive for COVID-19 had contact with in the 48 hours before their COVID-19 symptoms began or their positive test result, whichever came first when they were:
    • unprotected (both case and contact weren’t wearing a medical or cloth mask),
    • within close distance (less than 2m/6ft apart) and
    • together for several minutes
  • Low risk or casual interactions are not considered high-risk contacts. Examples include walking by or briefly being in the same room
  • This poster illustrates who is a close contact
  • This poster illustrates who is a close contact at work 
  • Close contacts are at a higher risk of becoming infected and sharing the virus with others, and are referred to as high-risk contacts.

Click here to view a flowchart with guidance for people exposed to someone who has COVID-19 symptoms and/or tests positive on PCR or RAT.

If you do NOT live with the close contact:

  • Self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days from your exposure.
  • Wear a mask in all public spaces, avoid activities that require mask removal in public (like dining out or high contact sports) and do not visit any high-risk settings or vulnerable people.
  • If you begin to experience symptoms, self-isolate immediately and follow the guidance in the tabs above.

If the COVID-19 positive or symptomatic person lives with you, then the following applies:

  • If you do not meet the below criteria you must self-isolate for the same amount of time as the positive/symptomatic person. If any of the following apply to you, you do not need to self-isolate:
    • You have previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days
    • You are 18+ and boosted
    • You are under 18 years old and are fully vaccinated (2 doses)
  • If not isolating – then you must self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days from your exposure, wear a mask in all public spaces, avoid activities that require mask removal in public (like dining out or high contact sports) and do not visit any high-risk settings or vulnerable people.
  • If you develop symptoms, continue/start to self-isolate and follow the guidance in the tabs above.

*Note*

  • It is very important to follow all precautions during the 10 day period after your exposure regardless of your vaccination status. Wear a mask outside the home and avoid visiting high risk settings or anyone vulnerable for the entire 10 day period.
  • Immune-compromised close contacts should self-isolate for 10 days from their last exposure to the symptomatic/positive person, regardless of vaccination status.

*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.

  • Your household members should complete screening for symptoms before leaving the home.
  • If symptoms develop, follow the guidance above under “What to do if you have symptoms of COVID-19”
  • Individuals who decide to travel internationally or domestically must follow all rules and regulations outlined by the Government of Canada.
  • Regardless of vaccination status, those who travel should practice personal public health measures while away and upon their return.
    • This includes wearing a mask or face-covering, physical distancing, frequent hand washing, and staying outdoors as much as possible in order to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.
    • Travellers should stay informed about the COVID-19 situation at their destination and follow all local COVID-19 restrictions.

Retesting is generally not needed after isolation in order return to work or school as people can test positive  for a little while as the test can also pick up dead virus and this doesn’t mean you are still contagious. You can return to work when you are feeling better with no fever, other symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours – 48 hours for any gastrointestinal symptoms and have completed the appropriate amount of isolation and wear a mask in public places and avoid being around vulnerable people and places for additional time as needed to protect others should you still have a small amount of virus in your system during this time.

Long-COVID

Some people continue to experience symptoms of COVID-19 for weeks or months after their initial recovery. This can be termed Post COVID-19 Condition or Long-COVID. Post COVID-19 condition is not COVID-19. Symptoms can be quite different from those during the initial infection. It refers to the longer-term effects some people experience after their COVID-19 illness.

While many symptoms have been identified for Long-COVID, the most common include fatigue, shortness of breath, pain, sleep disturbances, anxiety, and depression. For some, the symptoms last for four to five weeks after the initial symptoms. For others the symptoms continue for 12 weeks for more.

Being up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccine decreases the risk of developing Long-COVID.

Here is a short video from the World Health Organization on Long-COVID: WHO’s Science in 5 on COVID-19: Post COVID-19 condition – 30 July 2021 – YouTube

If you feel you are experiencing symptoms of Long-COVID – contact your primary care provider directly. You can use the links below to learn more about how this condition is being assessed, diagnosed and managed.

The COVID Alert App is now retired and is no longer being used as a way to alert people to possible exposures. You can delete this app from your phone if you had it downloaded. For more information see this Government of Canada link: