Information for those who test positive for COVID-19 and high-risk contacts

Last updated: November 25, 2021

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And additional information for:

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and have not been contacted about an exposure, please visit the testing page for more information.

If you think you were exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and have not been contacted with isolation instructions from Ottawa Public Health (OPH) or were contacted by an automated message from OPH, complete this tool to see if you need to isolate.

People who test positive for COVID-19

If you have tested positive for COVID-19 and are waiting to hear from Ottawa Public Health, please read our Tested Positive Letter [pdf - 234 KB]. (This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly)

You must self-isolate right away to protect those around you. Self-isolation prevents the spread of COVID-19. Self-isolation means staying at home, avoiding contact with other people including those in your household if possible, and only leaving home for critical reasons, like a medical emergency.

If you are in distress, go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 9-1-1 (experiencing significant trouble breathing, chest pain, fainting or have significant worsening of any chronic disease symptoms). It is ok to break isolation for this. Be sure to tell them that you are COVID-19 positive so correct precautions can be used to decrease the transmission of the virus. For non-emergency situations where you need medical help, visit a COVID-19 Care Clinic.

You must follow the self-isolation requirements. This is the law. 

Find information about the Class Order Section 22 that was issued in September 2021 on our public health orders and instructions page. There are some exemptions to the class order.

For more information on self-isolation, visit the Government of Canada website (available in over 20 languages).

Ottawa has a voluntary isolation centre for people who do not have access to suitable shelter or cannot self-isolate safely in their own homes. See our voluntary isolation centre web page for more information.

What happens when you test positive for COVID-19?

You will be:

  1. Called by a case manager
  2. Asked to provide names and contact information of your close contacts

You will be called by a case manager. Case managers are trained health professionals.

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has partnered with the Ontario Ministry of Health (MOH) and Public Health Ontario (PHO). These organizations are helping OPH with case and contact management. Therefore, as a case or a contact, you may receive a call from the MOH or PHO instead of or in addition to a call from OPH.

The laboratory reports positive results to Ottawa Public Health (OPH). A case manager will call you within a few days of getting your result. The case manager will speak to you about COVID-19, your isolation period and complete contact tracing with you. The case manager will also ask you questions about your health history, symptoms, COVID-19 vaccinations, work/school information, income, race, language spoken and household size.

Please be aware that you may receive calls from the facility where you were tested and/or the laboratory your test was sent to. They must tell anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 their results. This can mean you may get multiple calls over a few days. You may get more calls if other family members have positive test results, and they have the same phone number.

A case manager will review testing and self-isolation information with you. They will also provide you with resources (pdf - 608KB) (This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly) that can help support you and your family during this time.

Self-isolation period and testing for people who test positive for COVID-19
 
Self-isolation period and testing for people who test positive for COVID-19
ScenarioIsolation PeriodTesting
If you test positive for COVID-19 with mild to moderate illness (fever, chills, cough, muscle aches, tiredness, sore throat, headache) 

10 days from when your symptoms started

You may end self-isolation after this period as long as you have no fever (without the use of fever-reducing medications) and symptoms are getting better for at least 24 hours (48 hours for gastrointestinal symptoms). 

You do not need to re-test
If you test positive for COVID-19 with no symptoms 

10 days from your testing day

You may end self-isolation after this period as long as you remain symptom-free.

If you develop symptoms at any time, you may end self-isolation after this period as long as you have no fever (without the use of fever-reducing medications) and symptoms are getting better for at least 24 hours (48 hours for gastrointestinal symptoms). 

You do not need to re-test
If you test positive for COVID-19 and have severe illness where you needed intensive care unit (ICU) admission or are severely immune compromised (such as receiving chemotherapy for cancer treatment, or taking prednisone, or other immune suppressive medication) 

20 days from when your symptoms started

You may end self-isolation after this period, as long as you do not have a fever (without the use of fever-reducing medications) and symptoms are getting better for at least 24 hours (48 hours for gastrointestinal symptoms). 

You do not need to re-test

We ask that you provide names and contact information of your close contacts.

During the phone call with a case manager, they will talk to you about your contacts. Contact tracing identifies anyone you were with beginning 48 hours before your symptoms started (or 48 hours before your positive result if you have no symptoms), up until you started self-isolating. A case manager will ask you questions to help determine if your contacts had a high-risk exposure. This includes where you were, how long you were together, how close you were, and if masks were worn.

You will be asked about:

  • Places you visited during the time you were contagious
  • The place or person you most likely got COVID-19 from
  • Anyone you were in close contact with during the time you were contagious
  • You may be asked to notify your high-risk contacts yourself. You will be asked to give them this letter to high-risk contacts [pdf - 218KB] (This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly) which tells them what they need to know.

It is helpful if you make a list of your high-risk contacts before you are called. Include their names and contact information. We will not disclose your identity to your contacts.  

Your rights, our rights

You have a right to be treated with respect and kindness. We will strive to answer all your questions to the best of our abilities. Our goal is to support you through this and collect the information we are required to. Your personal health information and the health of you and your family are very important to us.

We ask that you kindly listen to the advice provided and help us collect the information we need to keep the community safe.

If you would like to learn more about case and contact management, watch this video!          

People who are contacts of someone who tests positive for COVID-19 (high-risk contacts)

Who is a close contact infographic (pdf - 766 KB, available in Somali and Arabic

If you are a contact of someone who tests positive for COVID-19, you may be required to self-isolate and get tested.

If you are a contact, you may be notified of your exposure in different ways depending on the situation. You may be reached:

  • Directly by Ottawa Public Health (OPH)
  • By automated OPH notification (phone, text, email)
  • By a letter from your employer or school
  • Directly by the person who tested positive

You will be told:

  • The date you were exposed to the person who tested positive for COVID-19
  • How long you need to isolate for*
  • When you should go for testing
  • What to tell your household members*

You will not be told:

  • Who exposed you
  • Where you were exposed (in most cases)

*Instructions for isolation will be different depending on the vaccination status of the high-risk contact and the household members of the high-risk contact and whether someone is previously positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and has since been cleared.

What is a high-risk contact and how is this determined?

A high-risk contact, also known as a close contact, is someone exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19. Exposures can occur in a home, other indoor places where physical distancing (two metres) is difficult to maintain and even outdoors if people are close together for longer periods of time.  High-risk contacts can be a household member or a close contact in the community.

OPH may decide that someone is a high-risk contact based on information provided by the person who tested positive. OPH may also decide this based on information from where the exposure took place, such as schools, day cares or workplaces. OPH assesses many factors to determine if a contact had a high-risk exposure. This includes where you were, how long you were together, how close you were and if masks were worn.

When do high-risk contacts need to go for testing?
All high-risk contacts should go for COVID-19 testing regardless of vaccination status, but the timing of the COVID-19 tests is important. The date you go for testing depends on two factors: 
  • When you last had contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19. 

If you have COVID-19 like symptoms, you should go for testing right away. 

If you do not have COVID-19 like symptoms, get tested seven or more days after the last contact you had with the person that tested positive for COVID-19. This date will be in the automated message from OPH if applicable. Testing is by appointment only at all testing sites. Visit OPH's Testing web page to book an appointment.

How long do I need to isolate for?

This depends on your vaccination status, your living situation, and overall health.

If you are a high-risk contact and are fully vaccinated** or were previously positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and have since been cleared:
**Fully vaccinated means that it has been at least 14 days since you received:
  • The full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., two doses of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca/COVIDSHIELD, or one dose of Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) or any combination of such vaccines, OR
  • One or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Sinopharm) followed by one dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) OR
  • Three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Abdala).

If you are fully vaccinated** or were previously positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and have since been cleared, and have symptoms, you must self-isolate. You can stop isolating when your symptoms have improved for 24 hours (48 hours for gastrointestinal symptoms), you do not have fever, and you received a negative test result. If you have symptoms, are fully vaccinated** or were previously positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and have since been cleared, and decided not to get tested, you must self-isolate for 10 days from your last exposure from the person who tested positive or 10 days from your symptom onset, whichever is longer.

If you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 and were fully vaccinated** or were previously positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and have since been cleared, at the time of your high-risk exposure to someone with COVID-19, you may not need to self-isolate at home or in the community, you must consult your employer prior to returning to work.

These are the exceptions that would require a fully vaccinated** or previously positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and have since been cleared high-risk contact to self-isolate:

Exceptions
ExceptionsWhy
Individuals who are residents of long-term care or retirement homes, patients admitted overnight to health care settings and residents of high-risk congregate settings (e.g., group homes, shelters) There is a higher risk of severe disease and death in this population and risk of transmission in these settings.
High-Risk Contacts (HRC) that are only partially vaccinated or within 2 weeks of receiving their second dose Partially vaccinated individuals are not considered fully vaccinated** and are still at risk for developing infection.
Fully vaccinated** OR previously positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and have since been cleared individuals that have travelled internationally All travelers entering Canada must Follow Federal Quarantine Requirements including isolation and testing regardless of vaccine status. 
HRC that are symptomatic If symptoms occur, individuals must self-isolate and be tested immediately. Their household contacts should also self-isolate (unless fully vaccinated** OR previously positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and have since been cleared). Isolation can be discontinued for both the HRC and the household contacts if the HRC receives a negative test and is symptom-free for 24 hours, or if a health care practitioner provides an alternative diagnosis.  
Immunocompromising conditions (organ or stem cell transplantation recipients, undergoing chemotherapy or immunosuppressive therapies) More studies are currently being done on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines among individuals with immunocompromising conditions.

If you do not meet any of the exceptions above:

  • You do not need to self-isolate, but you must inform your employer of your exposure and follow any restrictions from work as specified by your manager or Occupational Health Department
  • Your household members do not need to self-isolate
  • You should still be tested in accordance with current recommendations or right away if you develop symptoms. 

During the 10 days following your exposure you should:

  • Self-monitor for symptoms, and if you develop you must self-isolate right away and seek testing, and your household members must also self-isolate (unless they are fully vaccinated** OR were previously positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and have since been cleared).

You should wear a mask and maintain physical distancing when outside of your home and avoid vulnerable populations (such as schools or long-term care facilities) unless for essential reasons (for work, you are a student or staff). This is to reduce the risk to others in the event you test positive. 

Learn more on playing sports and other group activities if you are a high-risk contact and fully vaccinated.

If you are a high-risk contact and are not fully vaccinated**:
High-risk contact and are not fully vaccinated**
ScenarioIsolation PeriodTesting
If you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and were able to break contact (e.g., someone outside of your home)

10 days from your last contact with that person.

Even if you test negative for COVID-19, the self-isolation period is still 10 days as this is the incubation period for the COVID-19 virus.  

Go for testing seven days from your last contact with the person who tested positive or right away if you have symptoms
If you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and you cannot break contact with them (parent to young child)

10 days from the last day of the isolation period of the person who tested positive. 

Even if you test negative for COVID-19, the self-isolation period is still 10 days from the last day of the isolation period of the person who tested positive as this is the incubation period for the COVID-19 virus. 

Go for testing seven days from when the person who tested positive developed symptoms (or tested positive if they do not have symptoms) or right away if you develop symptoms.
Information for people who live with a high-risk contact:

People who live with a high-risk contact
ScenarioIsolation PeriodTesting
If you live in the same household as someone who is a high-risk contact (has had close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19) and who has symptoms 

If you are not fully vaccinated**, the self-isolation period is 10 days from the last day you were in contact with them (i.e., the day you began isolating away from them). 

If the household member who is a high-risk contact receives a negative test result, you may stop self-isolating but should stay home except for essential reasons for the duration of their isolation period.  

Essential reasons include attending work/school/childcare and essential errands such as groceries, attending medical appointments or picking up prescriptions. 

If you are a fully vaccinated** or previously positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and have since been cleared household member of a high-risk contact who has symptoms, you do not need to self isolate.

Only go for testing if the high-risk contact tests positive (see above for when to go for testing when you are a high-risk contact)
If you live in the same household as someone who is a high-risk contact (has had close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19) and who has no symptoms  

If you are not fully vaccinated**, you must stay home except for essential reasons for the duration of the contact’s self-isolation period.  

Essential reasons include attending work/school/childcare and essential errands such as groceries, attending medical appointments or picking up prescriptions. 

If you are a fully vaccinated** or previously positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and have since been cleared household member of a high-risk contact with no symptoms, you do not need to self isolate.   

Only go for testing if the high-risk contact tests positive (see above for when to go for testing when you are a high-risk contact)

What if my test is negative?

If you were identified as a high-risk contact and your test is negative, you need to remain isolated for 10 days (unless you are fully vaccinated** or previously positive in the last 90 days and have since been cleared, see above for isolation for fully vaccinated** and previously positive contacts). Your unvaccinated household members must continue to stay home except for essential reasons. It can take up to 10 days after being exposed to someone with COVID-19 for you to start showing signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and to test positive.

Additional Information

Where do I call if I want to speak with a nurse?

Please call 613-580-6744 and follow the prompts to the COVID-19 phone line. Our phone line is open Monday to Friday from 8 am to 4:30 pm.

Before calling, please check our resources for information:

Information for travel

Returning from International Travel?

All travelers entering Canada must follow federal quarantine requirements including isolation and testing. Refer to the Federal Quarantine Requirements to determine if you are required to isolate.

Returning from Provincial Travel?

Whether you drive or fly, if you travel within Canada (without having been out of the country) there are no federal travel requirements, but there may be provincial or territorial rules and restrictions. Check the provincial or territorial requirements before you travel.

Automated messages

OPH uses automated messages when there are a lot people to reach. This helps to reach more people quickly and helps high-risk contacts to isolate as soon as possible. This reduces the spread of COVID-19 in the community. We will never ask you for personal information using an automated message.

If we need to reach you this way, you will receive your first automated message as soon as we have enough information to contact you. Two more potential messages will be sent depending on your last day of exposure and isolation dates (day seven and day 10). Please listen to the message(s) very carefully.

You may receive more than one automated message if you are a high-risk contact in more than one setting. If the automated message tells you to self-isolate until two different dates, you should self-isolate until the later date. For example, if you are identified as a high-risk contact at a school telling you to self-isolate until March 20, 2021 and at a social event telling you to self-isolate until March 23, 2021, you should self-isolate until the later day, March 23, 2021.

If you are identified as a high-risk contact and OPH has determined that they have enough information to add you to the automated lists, you will potentially receive:

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