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.
Step One: Confirm if you need to isolate
If you havecovid 19, isolating will help stop the spread of the virus. You must isolate if you:
- have symptoms of COVID-19 or have tested positive for the virus
- live with someone with symptoms or who’s tested positive for COVID-19 and you have not tested positive in the last 90 days
You may need to isolate if you were exposed to someone who has 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 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.
- fever or chills
- shortness of breath
- decreased or loss of taste or smell
- two or more of:
- runny nose or nasal congestion
- extreme fatigue
- sore throat
- muscle aches or joint pain
- gastrointestinal symptoms (such as vomiting or diarrhea)
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 have symptoms of COVID-19 or have tested positive, you must isolate:
- for at least five days if you are fully vaccinated or are under 12 years of age
- for at least 10 days if you are over the age of 12 and not full vaccinated or immunocompromised
Everyone in your household must also isolate for the duration of your isolation period, unless they have previously tested positive in the last 90 days and they currently do not have symptoms.
If you reach the end of your isolation period and have a fever and/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). Your household members do not need to isolate, as long as they have no symptoms.
Clinical assessment centres can assess, test and provide treatment options for eligible individuals who know or suspect they have COVID-19. You should visit a clinical assessment centre if you develop symptoms and you are at high-risk for severe illness, or if you have symptoms that cannot be safely monitored at home, but are not experiencing severe symptoms that require emergency care.
If you’ve been exposed to someone from another household with symptoms of COVID-19 or a positive test result
If you are fully vaccinated and have no symptoms
- 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 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
- this does not apply if you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and currently have no symptoms
If you are not fully vaccinated or are immunocompromised and have not tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days
- 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 have previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and have been exposed again
- you do not need to isolate as long as you have no symptoms
- self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days from last exposure
- you can go to work including in the highest-risk settings.
- if you develop symptoms of COVID-19, you will need to isolate.
If you live, work, attend, volunteer, or have been admitted in one of the highest-risk settings:
- 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, and correctional institutions
- First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities
To help ensure sufficient staffing levels, workers in these settings may be required to return to work earlier than 10 days, with additional precautions such as testing. Speak with your employer for more information.
Step Two: Get tested forcovid 19 if you are eligible
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 point-of-care molecular 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.
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
- someone who lives with a patient-facing health care worker and/or a worker in the highest risk settings
- an outpatient being considered for COVID-19 treatment
- a temporary foreign worker living in a congregate setting
- underhoused or homeless
- 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
- 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 point-of-care 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.
Rapid antigen testing
Ontario has a limited supply of rapid antigen tests and is working to procure additional rapid tests while continuing to urge the federal government to make more rapid tests available to provinces as quickly as possible. Ontario is currently prioritizing distribution of rapid antigen tests for our most vulnerable sectors to help prevent worker shortages and to protect individuals who work and live in the highest risk settings. This includes organizations that are required to have a vaccine policy with a testing component.
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. Close contacts in schools and child care should follow the school and child care-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 the COVID-19: Support for people page.
You can also contact your public health unit for support including: