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Last revised on May 31, 2021

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) encourages you to go about your daily activities while protecting yourself and others. Please follow these recommended precautions and be COVID Wise to help keep COVID-19 under control.

W – Wear a mask or face covering where required, or when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres (six feet).

I – Isolate yourself from others when you are sick (and get tested promptly if you have COVID-like symptoms).

S – Stay two metres (six feet) apart from those outside your household or your chosen social support person(s).

E – Exercise proper hand hygiene; wash your hands regularly or use sanitizer especially before touching your face.

Scams and misinformation

Be COVID Wise, protect yourself by staying informed using credible and trusted sources of information. Here are some things you can do: 

Our choices and actions matter 

Let’s be COVID Wise and COVID Kind to reduce community transmission. Please see below for real world contact tracing examples:

Family gathering and workplace cluster

Sports clusters

Where are we exposed?

In your home

How can I reduce the risks of COVID-19 transmission in indoor spaces?

Exhaled breath, whether from breathing, speaking, singing, shouting, etc., contains a variety of sizes of particles, or respiratory droplets, many of which are big enough that they fall quickly to the ground, but some of which are small enough that they can stay in the air for various lengths of time. 

COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through direct contact into the mouth, nose, or eyes with the exhaled respiratory droplets of an infected person. While ventilation of indoor environments with fresh air provides an important additional layer of protection, the basis of reducing the risk of transmission while indoors continues to be following COVIDWise principles: 

W – Wear a mask or face covering where required, or when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres (six feet), or any time you are in a room or other limited airspace with another person even if you are able to stay two metres apart.  

I – Isolate yourself when you have any symptoms and get tested.  Learn about testing: 

S – Stay two metres (six feet) apart from those outside your household. 

E – Exercise proper hand hygiene; wash your hands regularly or use sanitizer especially before touching your face. 

Poor ventilation in indoor spaces is linked to increased transmission of respiratory infections, particularly if the airspace is small. Transmission of COVID-19 has been linked with enclosed spaces, including from people who are infected but are not showing any symptoms of illness. Along with using COVIDWise measures, ventilation with fresh air should be improved whenever possible, e.g., bringing in more fresh air through a properly maintained ventilation system or by opening windows and doors.  

Even when keeping a distance of two or more metres, people should wear a mask if spending time in an enclosed airspace with people not from their household. The longer you are exposed to someone else in an enclosed airspace, the higher your chances are of breathing in that person’s exhaled respiratory droplets. The safest approach is to wear a mask at all times when you are in the same room with someone not from your household.  

How do heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems affect the transmission of COVID-19?

It is important to note that in the instances where poor ventilation was linked to increased transmission of COVID-19, the issue has usually been unbalanced or drafty HVAC air flow that carried the virus to other people in the same room, and not the HVAC system carrying the virus through ductwork to other rooms. At this time, there has been no convincing evidence that COVID-19 has been transmitted to people in other rooms using the same HVAC system. In fact, a well-maintained HVAC system may help reduce transmission of COVID-19 by exchanging indoor air, into which people have exhaled, with fresh outdoor air and by filtering recirculated air.  

Because of mechanical and structural complexity and cost, improved ventilation may need to be a longer-term goal, though adjustments to maximize air exchanges and filtration efficiency within the specifications of the existing HVAC system should be made as soon as possible.  

If possible, consult an HVAC professional to determine: 

  • If your HVAC system is operating properly 

  • If it can be adjusted to increase air exchange 

  • If it is using the most effective type of filters compatible with its system. 

  • If it is suitable for the size of your space and its intended use 

There are also quicker added interventions, such as portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration units but purchase and operating costs must be considered. Note, however, that within a single room, the air blown around by air conditioners or fans may increase the distance over which a virus can be transmitted. To help prevent blowing air from areas in which there may be virus into other areas and to reduce the concentration of virus particles in these areas: 

  • Minimize the use of air conditioners and fans blowing within the room (e.g., by using the lowest setting) 

  • Direct airflow away from surfaces and people (e.g., use a fan by aiming it to exhaust air out a window) 

  • Increase natural ventilation by opening windows if weather permits 

Please note that air conditioners and fans also require regular maintenance, such as: 

  • Surface cleaning, including the blades 

  • Removal of any moisture or water that has collected in portable air conditioners 

  • Filter changes 

  • Other maintenance activities found in manufacturers’ instructions 

Please note: 

Ventilation must never be considered the main or only means of risk reduction: masking, distancing, barriers, and hand hygiene have more immediate and reliable results. 

COVIDWise behavior remains the best way to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus indoors. 


icon of people talking on a telephoneTake care of yourself

Take care of yourself. It’s ok to not be ok. Help is available and we encourage you to reach out to the Distress Centre of Ottawa to connect with someone at 613-238-3311.

We are all in this together.

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Public spaces are reopening. Mandatory masks can help reduce transmission COVID-19. Remember to be COVID Kind as some people are medically exempt from wearing masks or are adjusting.


Contact information

Provincial Vaccine Information Line

  • Monday to Friday (holidays excluded) from 8:30 am to 5 pm, Eastern Time
  • Call if you have questions about Ontario's COVID-19 vaccination program.
  • Service is available in multiple languages.
  • Telephone: 1-888-999-6488
  • TTY: 1-866-797-0007

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