Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Key Messages:

  • The virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is primarily transmitted via exhaled respiratory droplets and particles that are propelled into the air after an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or breathes.
  • COVID-19 can cause illness ranging from a very mild, cold-like illness to severe infections. Presentations may be atypical, especially in older persons, children, and people living with a developmental disability.
  • It is important to note that people with COVID-19 can be asymptomatic while infected and transmission can still occur when infected people are asymptomatic or prior to developing symptoms.

COVID-19 is a disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. COVID-19 most often causes respiratory symptoms similar to a cold, the flu, or pneumonia. Most people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms, but some people become severely ill. Vaccination can help prevent the development of severe illness.

Some people may develop Post-COVID Conditions – also known as “Long COVID.”

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Local Epidemiology

For the most up-to-date information on the COVID-19 situation and epidemiological data please visit:

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Signs and symptoms

COVID-19 can cause illness ranging from a very mild, cold-like illness to a severe infection. Presentations may be atypical, especially in older persons, children and people living with a developmental disability. People with COVID-19 can be asymptomatic while infected; transmission can still occur when people are asymptomatic or prior to developing symptoms.

Refer to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s COVID-19 signs, symptoms and severity of disease: a clinician’s guide, for a full list of symptoms.

With ongoing community transmission, consider COVID-19 as a potential diagnosis for all patients presenting with symptoms of acute respiratory infection, regardless of their travel or contact history. 

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Diagnosis and laboratory testing

Clinicians play a vital role in helping patients navigate current testing resources, accessing antivirals or providing testing in their own clinical setting. Public Health Ontario (PHO) and the Ontario College of Family Physicians have resources on COVID-19 IPAC measures for the clinical office setting.

Testing & Treatment

The Ministry of Health provides testing guidanceeligibility criteria for PCR testing, and information on COVID-19 testing locations.

Those who have symptoms of COVID-19 and are at higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID‑19 may be eligible for antivirals, and are advised to seek testing (rapid antigen testing or PCR) and care immediately.

Patients can be directed to our public-facing COVID-19 Testing and Care Information page for information on when to seek testing, eligibility, as well as how to access testing in Ottawa. 

PCR testing and access to antiviral therapy is available through many local pharmacies, visit the province's website for more information.

Note that if you are collecting specimens that are part of a COVID-19 outbreak in a facility (e.g., long-term care or retirement home), please ensure that the outbreak number is included on the requisition, as per the PHO Respiratory Outbreak Testing Prioritization Protocol (PDF).

Testing of Health Care Workers (HCW)

Please refer to Ministry of Health’s Appendix 1: Case Definitions and Disease-Specific Information - Disease: Diseases caused by a novel coronavirus, including Coronavirus Disease 2019 for testing and isolation expectations, setting specific guidance, or refer to guidance from your employer, if applicable.

Serology testing for COVID-19

There are limited clinical scenarios for which serology testing may be appropriate for diagnostic purposes, 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. To date no studies have identified an immune marker that represents an absolute correlate of protection against SARS-CoV-2-infection (i.e., prevents an infection at a certain threshold), so serology is not useful in determining someone’s protection against future infection.

Rapid Antigen Testing:

  • Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT):  A positive rapid antigen test is highly indicative that a symptomatic individual has COVID-19. Therefore, individuals with a positive result on a rapid antigen test do not require a confirmatory PCR test in most settings and are managed as a case of COVID-19 and should follow recommendations on measures to take to limit transmission. Results from RATs are not reportable to public health.
    • Individuals with symptoms may undergo rapid antigen testing if it is available to them. Non-routine, or ‘one-off’, testing is not recommended, as there are important limitations of the tests.
    • Molecular tests are preferred for some populations, such as symptomatic patients in hospital and for residents in highest risk settings, such as long-term care homes.
    • A positive rapid antigen test is highly indicative that a symptomatic individual has COVID-19. 
    • A single negative RAT does not rule out COVID-19, and these tests may be falsely negative, especially early in illness.
    • Two consecutive negative RATs, separated by 24-48hours, means COVID-19 infection is less likely. The individual is still recommended to 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:   

  • Individuals should follow any workplace guidance (as applicable) for return to work.  Individuals returning to work in highest risk settings (e.g., acute care, long-term care homes, etc.) should follow any relevant workplace guidance on return to work. In general, return to work in highest risk settings after self-isolating as above, may occur while following measures to reduce the risk of transmission for 10 days after symptom onset/positive test date, including:
    • Avoiding caring for patients/residents at highest risk of severe COVID-19 infection, where possible
    • Ensuring well-fitting source control masking (e.g., a well-fitting medical mask or fit or non-fit tested N95 respirator or KN95)
    • Reviewing PPE and IPAC practices, where possible
    • Taking unmasked breaks in a separate breakroom, or with physical distancing, to avoid exposing coworkers
    • Working on a single ward or area of the setting as much as possible
    • Working in a single facility, as much as possible

Infection Prevention and Control in your office

There are IPAC resources available to support seeing symptomatic patients in clinic, including offering testing, Ottawa Public Health’s IPAC resources and information and from Public Health OntarioOntario Health and from the Ontario College of Family Physicians. COVID-19 testing must  comply with provincial eligibility criteria in all settings.


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 PCR 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 the Management section.

COVID-19 Testing and Assessment Centres

Many local assessment centres have now closed. Details on how to access COVID-19 testing are also available on OPH’s testing page.

Self-isolation for Individuals with symptoms of respiratory illness or testing positive for COVID-19:

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Notification and management of contacts

Individuals should inform others of their exposure.

Individuals who test positive or who have symptoms of COVID-19 should notify their household members and similar close contacts that they are ill and refer them to additional precautions to take.

A close contact is anyone an individual was less than two metres away from for at least 15 minutes, or multiple shorter lengths of time, without measures such as masking, distancing, and/or the use of personal protective equipment in the 48 hours before symptoms began or a positive test result, whichever came first.

For more information please see guidance from the Ministry of Health.

Pharmaceutical Therapies

Please note that OPH does not coordinate access to pharmaceutical treatments for individuals with COVID-19. Provincially, pharmacotherapies are coordinated through Ontario Health. The Ministry of Health provides information for patients on testing and antiviral eligibility and access. The Ministry of Health provides information for patients on testing and antiviral treatment. Ontario Health provides recommendation on the use of Paxlovid.

Additional resources:

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Who can receive the vaccine

Vaccinated in the past for COVID-19

Those previously immunized against COVID-19 are recommended to wait until Fall 2024 for updated guidance regarding future COVID-19 immunizations unless advised otherwise by your health care provider.

The XBB.1.5-containing COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are available in all OPH clinics that provide COVID-19 vaccines for those who have been recommended by their health care provider to get a COVID-19 dose over the summer months, if it has been at least 3 months since your last vaccine dose. The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine is only available at certain OPH clinics for individuals 12 years and older.

Vaccinated if immunocompromised

The Spring COVID-19 Vaccine Campaign, which ran from April to June, recommended moderately-to severely immunocompromised individuals receive a COVID-19 dose. If recommended by your health care provider, a dose can be received over the summer months if there has been a minimum 3 months since last vaccine dose .

  • Not vaccinated in the past or who have been recommended by their health care provider to restart the vaccination series.
    • 6 months to 4 years old: get 3 to 4 doses (product specific) of the updated COVID-19 vaccine 4-8 weeks apart; if they have had a recent COVID-19 infection they should wait 4 to 8 weeks (28 to 56 days) after symptom onset or after testing positive (if no symptoms were experienced) before their COVID-19 doses.
    • 5 years and older: get 2 dose of the COVID-19 vaccine 4-8 weeks apart; if they have had a recent COVID-19 infection they should wait 4 to 8 weeks (28 to 56 days after symptom onset or after testing positive (if no symptoms were experienced) before their COVID-19 dose. 

It is important to speak with your health care provider about the timing for you to have the best possible immune response from the vaccine and minimize delays in your treatment. Let the provider giving you the COVID-19 immunization know that you are immunocompromised.

Not vaccinated in the past

People 6 months and older who have not been previously vaccinated against COVID-19 are recommended to receive the XBB COVID-19 vaccine, at any time, if it has been 8 weeks (56 days) since their last COVID-19 infection symptom onset or after testing positive (if no symptoms were experienced).

  • 6 months to 4 years old – get 2 to 3 doses (product specific) of the updated COVID-19 vaccines; eight weeks apart
  • 5 years and older – get one dose of the XBB COVID-19 vaccine.

Novavax vaccine

The updated XBB 1.5-containing Novavax COVID-19 vaccine can be given to people 12 years of age and older. 

Visit our frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccination web page to learn more about the Novavax (Nuvaxovid) COVID-19 vaccine.

Booking an appointment

Novavax is available at Ottawa Public Health’s immunization clinic at JH Putman School (2051 Bel-Air Dr.).

To book a clinic spot use the online provincial booking system or call the Provincial booking system at 1-833-943-3900 (TTY 1-866-797-0007) to schedule an appointment.

Note: The provincial booking system may not indicate the Novavax vaccine is available at this clinic, but you will be able to request the vaccine from your nurse when seen, in-person, at the clinic.

Where to get vaccinated

Ottawa Public Health offers COVID-19 vaccination through local community clinics, neighbourhood health and wellness hubs and pop-up clinics. Find below, more information about each type of Ottawa Public Health clinic.

Community clinics

COVID-19 vaccination is available at community clinics for eligible clients six months and older.

Residents are encouraged to book an appointment. Walk-ins will be accepted as capacity allows. You can use the online provincial booking system or call the Provincial booking system at 1-833-943-3900 (TTY 1-866-797-0007) to schedule an appointment at your local community clinic. The vaccination clinic locations in Ottawa were selected with accessibility being the main consideration.

Book a COVID-19 vaccine

If you require disability-related accommodations, please fill out this COVID-19 Vaccine Accessibility Assessment form at least 48 hours before your appointment (please indicate the time and date of your appointment). With less than 48 hours, Ottawa Public Health will strive to meet all accommodation needs, however, may not be able meet all requirements. 

Hours of Operation (only on dates specified):

Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays: 12:45 to 7:10 pm (closed between 3:45 and 4:45 pm)

Thursdays and Fridays: 9:45 am to 4:10 pm (closed between 12:45 and 1:45 pm)

Saturdays and Sundays: Closed

LocationDetailsDates of operation

J.H Putman School


2051 Bel-Air Drive

New Clinic dates:

  • Friday, July 19
  • Monday, July 22
  • Tuesday, July 23
  • Wednesday, July 24
  • Thursday, July 25
  • Friday, July 26
  • Monday, July 29
  • Tuesday, July 30
  • Wednesday, July 31
  • Thursday, August 1

Changing or cancelling a vaccine appointment

If you booked your appointment with WabanoAkausivika pharmacy, a hospital or at Switch Health, please contact them directly to make any changes.

If you booked an appointment through the provincial online vaccine booking system, you can reschedule or cancel it online or by calling 1-833-943-3900 (TTY 1-866-797-0007). You will need your:

  • health card (information on front and back)
  • postal code
Neighbourhood Health and Wellness Hubs

In collaboration with city and community partners, Ottawa Public Health offers free drop-in services to all residents of Ottawa at our accessible Neighbourhood Health and Wellness Hubs. COVID-19 vaccination is available at select locations. Come speak to Ottawa Public Health and City of Ottawa staff.

View the locations and hours of the Neighbourhood Health and Wellness Hubs.

Select Pharmacies

Select pharmacy locations offer COVID-19 vaccination. Pharmacy locations are separate from Ottawa Public Health’s vaccination roll-out. You can find a list of all pharmacies offering COVID-19 vaccines, including which vaccines are offered, hours, locations and how to book an appointment online.



Supporting your patients to get vaccinated

For more information on vaccine clinics in Ottawa, including where your patients can get vaccinated, patients can visit our public COVID-19 Vaccine webpage.
Updated information, guidance, and resources for patient counselling for the COVID-19 vaccines are available from the Centre of Effective Practice.

Even if your patient decides not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, please continue to recommend they stay up to date with other vaccinations, including vaccination against influenza.

Contraindications to Vaccination

If a patient has a history of severe immediate allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) to the vaccine or any of the vaccine ingredients, health care practitioners are encouraged to refer patients to an allergist prior to administration of COVID-19 vaccine.

People who experienced a severe immediate allergic reaction after a dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine can safely receive future doses of the same or another mRNA COVID-19 vaccine after consulting with an allergist/immunologist or another appropriate physician. For more information, please consult the Ontario Ministry of Health’s  COVID-19 Vaccine Guidance.

Report an Adverse Event Following Immunization

Under the  Health Protection and Promotion Act, S.O. 2007, all healthcare professionals are required to report Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFIs) to local public health units. If you see a patient with symptoms that could possibly be related to a recent vaccination, you as the healthcare professional are required to  report the AEFI. Submitting a report doesn’t mean that the vaccine caused the event, but this is a critical component of monitoring the safety of all vaccines.

In addition to  AEFIs, health care professionals are asked to report  Adverse Events of Special Interest (PDF) for COVID-19 vaccine safety surveillance. AEFIs and AESIs are reportable to the  health unit of the patient’s residence. The  reporting form (PDF) can be submitted by fax to OPH at 613-580-9660 or through our  online form. If you are unsure, please be proactive and report.
Physician Billing

The Ontario Medical Association has outlined  information pertaining to billing for COVID-19 vaccination (PDF). The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care also publishes  OHIP bulletins to update on billing concerns, which include COVID-19. Physicians can also check the  OMA portal for updates. Questions regarding submission of billing codes can be directed to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care's Service Support Contact Centre at

Resources for Healthcare professionals

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Infection prevention and control (IPAC) measures protect healthcare professionals, staff, and patients from the spread of disease, including COVID-19. A risk assessment of your clinic and exam rooms prior to any interaction with patients will help to determine which IPAC measures are needed, depending on the specific setting and procedures being performed. The resources below may assist as you implement appropriate IPAC measures within your practice.

Public Health Ontario: IPAC Recommendations for use of Personal Protective Equipment for Care of Individuals with Suspect or Confirmed COVID-19 (PDF).
  • Incorporates evidence to date on modes of transmission, effectiveness of personal protective equipment (PPE) in healthcare workers (HCWs) and the undetermined impact of the emergence of variants and their lineages. Recommendations will be updated as needed based on emerging information.

Recommendations in the guidance include:

  • The recommended PPE when providing direct care for patients with suspect or confirmed COVID-19 includes a well-fitted medical mask* (surgical/procedure) or a fit-tested, seal-checked N95 respirator (or equivalent), eye protection, gown, and gloves.
  • N95 respirator (fit-tested, seal-checked) or medical mask*  should be used with all other recommended personal protective equipment when aerosol generating medical procedures (AGMPs) are performed or anticipated to be performed on patients with suspect or confirmed COVID 19.
  • *A non-fit tested N95respirator (or equivalent) is considered an alternative to a medical mask.


For more information on Infection Prevention and Control, please see our page Infection Prevention and Control Resources for Healthcare Professionals

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Public Health Role
  • Using the Health Protection and Promotion Act, S.O. 2007, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) takes actions to protect the public and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community.
  • We collaborate with provincial and national public health partners, as well as local hospitals and community agencies, to conduct surveillance and assess the risk level in our community.  We also work with partners to coordinate the response to outbreaks and make recommendations based on the local situation.
  • All deaths related to COVID-19 are reportable to OPH. Please see the Laboratory Testing section of this web page for more details.

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Patient resources

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Physician Resources

COVID-19 guidance documents

  • The Ministry of Health’s Health Sector Resources.
  • Public Health Ontario also has many useful resources for physicians and primary care providers including research syntheses, information on variants of concern and Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) resources in relation to COVID-19.


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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 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.

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