Testing, Results and Reporting of COVID-19

Last update: May 10, 2023

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Clinicians play a vital role in helping patients navigate current testing resources, supporting patients after testing or providing testing in their own clinical setting as long as IPAC measures are followed.

Who to test?

Please see the Ministry of Health’s Management of Cases and Contacts of COVID-19 in Ontario (PDF) for testing guidance and eligibility criteria including that for specific settings and populations. In addition, clinicians can review current eligibility criteria for PCR testing.

COVID-19 can present with a variety of signs and symptoms and range in severity from asymptomatic to severe. Please continue to use your clinical judgement during patient assessment and test facilitation, considering local epidemiology and exposure risks. When transmission is high in the community, it is prudent to assume that any COVID-19 symptoms, regardless of severity or known exposure, are indicative of COVID-19. There are no validated clinical tools available to differentiate COVID-19 from other illnesses with similar symptoms. Please refer to the Ministry of Health’s Management of Cases and Contacts of COVID-19 in Ontario document for signs and symptoms (PDF) and the OPH symptoms and management page for further information.        

Patients can be directed to our public-facing Testing page for information on when to seek testing, eligibility, as well as how to access testing in Ottawa.

Testing of Health Care Workers (HCW)

Please see the eligibility criteria for PCR testing, which includes guidance for Health Care Workers. Please refer to Ministry of Health’s Management of Cases and Contacts of COVID-19 in Ontario for testing and isolation expectations or with your health care institution if applicable.

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Timing of testing

For those who are eligible for molecular COVID-19 testing, please test (or recommend testing to) symptomatic individuals as soon as possible and in accordance with the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Provincial Testing Guidance (PDF).

Individuals who are identified as high-risk contacts should only be tested if they are eligible. Please see the Ministry of Health’s Management of Cases and Contacts of COVID-19 in Ontario (PDF) for further details.

Regardless of symptoms and / or vaccination status, anyone who tests positive on a rapid antigen test is managed as a case of COVID-19. A confirmatory PCR test is not required per provincial guidance, though some higher-risk setting employers may request a confirmatory PCR test to inform return to work decisions.

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Testing for COVID-19 in Ottawa

Testing eligibility is summarized on OPH’s COVID-19 Testing and Care Information webpage.

PCR Testing options in Ottawa

  • COVID-19 Assessment Centres: These centres will perform PCR testing for those who are eligible. Some of these centres may also offer in-person clinical assessment of acute symptoms by a nurse or physician and treatment when indicated. Details on how to access a COVID-19 testing and assessment centre are available on our

Serology testing for COVID-19:

There are limited clinical scenarios for which serology testing may be appropriate, such as when assessing symptoms compatible with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). For additional information, please refer to: Public Health Ontario Coronavirus Disease 2019 – Serology.

Rapid Antigen Testing:

  • Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT): Also referred to as rapid antigen detection testing, RAT or RADT can be used for several purposes described below. Given the current epidemiology of COVID-19, a positive RAT is highly indicative that the individual has COVID-19. Therefore, individuals with a positive result on RAT do not require a confirmatory PCR test in most settings and are managed as a case of COVID-19. These results are not reportable to public health.
    • Testing individuals with COVID-19 symptoms
      • Individuals with symptoms may undergo RAT if it is available to them.
      • A positive RAT is highly indicative that a symptomatic individual has COVID-19. They are managed as a case and are required to self-isolate.
      • A single negative RAT does not rule out COVID-19
        • Two consecutive negative RATs, separated by 24-48 hours, means COVID-19 infection is less likely. The individual should still self-isolate until they are afebrile and symptoms have improved for 24 hours (or 48 hours for gastrointestinal symptoms). 
    • Management of staff returning to work in highest risk settings:
    • Routine screen testing:
      • Routine screen testing is frequent, systematic testing of people who are asymptomatic and without known exposure to a COVID-19 case. Screen testing with rapid antigen tests involves routine testing multiple times per week (COVID-19 Provincial Testing Guidance)
    • Non-routine asymptomatic testing
    • RATs can be accessed by the general population at select retailers. More information available, including locations of participating retailers

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Testing for COVID-19 in your office

There are additional resources to support seeing symptomatic patients in clinic, including offering testing, on our IPAC page and from Public Health Ontario, Ontario Health and from the Ontario College of Family Physicians. COVID-19 testing should comply with provincial eligibility criteria in all settings.

Note that if you are collecting specimens that are part of a COVID-19 outbreak, please ensure that the outbreak number is included on the requisition, as per the PHO Respiratory Outbreak Testing Prioritization Protocol (PDF).

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It is the responsibility of the ordering physician or health care professional to communicate test results to their patients.

Patients can check their COVID-19 test result the following ways if they have a valid Ontario photo health card:

For information on isolation and supports for people who are tested for COVID-19, please see our Symptoms and Management page.

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Reporting to Ottawa Public Health

COVID-19 cases (suspected or confirmed)

All COVID-19 positive PCR lab results are reported to OPH. Note that Rapid Antigen Test results are not reportable. If you have any questions, please contact the Ottawa Public Health COVID-19 phone line at 613-580-6744.

COVID-19 Fatalities

With evolving testing strategies for COVID-19, hospitalization and death data are crucial to understanding the COVID-19 burden of disease. Deaths for which COVID-19 is an underlying or contributing cause are reportable to local Medical Officers of Health.

When reporting a COVID-19 death, please ensure the information provided to OPH matches information found on the Medical Certificate of Death. For details and examples regarding Medical Certificates of Death, please see the Technical Note from the World Health Organization. OPH recommends that physicians submit the Medical Certificate of Death when reporting a COVID-19 death however this is not a legal requirement. 

COVID-19 Fatalities can be reported to Ottawa Public Health by:

  1. Completing the Electronic Reporting Form.
  2. Downloading the appropriate Reporting Form and faxing a completed copy to 613-580-9640.
  3. Calling 613-580-2424 ext. 24224 and reporting the required information verbally.

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COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C)

Given changes in the epidemiology of COVID-19 in our community, physicians and health care professionals are no longer being requested by OPH to report Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) caused by COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) at this time.

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Contact us:

Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm: Call 613-580-2424, extension 24224, select your language of choice by pressing 1 or 2 and then and leave a detailed, confidential message including your contact information.

After hours, on weekends, or holidays: Call 3-1-1 and ask to speak to Public Health on call. To have your call prioritized as a health care professional, please identify yourself and your reason for calling; your call will be prioritized for answer by the next available public health nurse.

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