Isolation instructions for COVID-19

⚠ If you have come in contact with someone who has symptoms or has tested positive for COVID-19 on a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or rapid antigen test (RAT) test, complete this self-isolation determination tool to find out if you need to self-isolate. 

What is self-isolation?

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 independent exercise or for critical reasons, like a medical emergency or urgent medical care. The duration and instructions for self-isolation are different for each individual who may have been exposed to COVID-19. The self-isolation instructions are based on a combination of each individual's age, symptoms, test results, vaccination status, place of work or residence, general health and travel history.

Contact us


Ottawa Public Health COVID-19 Telephone Line

  • Monday to Friday, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
  • Translation is available in multiple languages
  • Telephone: 613-580-6744 follow the prompts to the COVID-19 telephone line
  • TTY: 613-580-9656

Provincial Testing and Isolation Information Line

  • 7 days a week from 8 am to 6 pm
  • Call if you have questions related to testing eligibility and isolation guidelines
  • Telephone: 1-888-777-0730

Emergency Services

  • If you are in distress (e.g., significant trouble breathing, chest pain, fainting or have a significant worsening of any chronic disease symptoms), do not go to the Assessment Centre or a COVID-19 Care clinic. Go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 911.

Last updated: July 5, 2022

Isolation instructions for COVID-19 and what to do after your COVID-19 test

The self-isolation instructions may be different for each individual who may have been exposed to or may have COVID-19. The self-isolation instructions are based on a combination of each individual's age, symptoms, test results, vaccination status, place of work or residence, general health and travel history.

What best describes you?

I have symptoms of COVID-19 or have tested positive on a PCR or rapid antigen test 

Scenario A - Fully vaccinated or under 12 years of age

This applies to you if you are:

  • Fully vaccinated (regardless of age)

  • Under 12 years of age (regardless of vaccination status)

  • Not immunocompromised, hospitalized, severely ill (requiring ICU level care) or living in a highest risk setting

You must self-isolate and follow these instructions:

  • Isolate for five days from the date your symptoms started or the date of your positive test, if available (whichever is earlier). If you have symptoms continue to isolate until your symptoms have been improving for 24 hours (or 48 hours if gastrointestinal symptoms) and you do not have a fever.
  • For a total of 10 days (or 20 days if you are immunocompromised) after the start of symptoms (or date of positive test result, whichever is earlier), you must:
    • Continue to wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings.
      • Wear a mask as much as possible in public settings (including school and child care, unless under 2 years old (24 months)). Exceptions would include removing the mask temporarily for essential activities like eating (e.g., when eating in shared space at school/work while maintaining as much distance from others as possible). 
      • You can participate in activities where a mask is worn but you should avoid activities where removing the mask would be necessary (e.g., dining out, playing a wind instrument, high contact sports where masks cannot be safely worn).
      • People who are exempt from masking (e.g., children under two years of age (24 months), etc.) may return to public settings without wearing a mask
    • Not visit anyone who is immunocompromised or at higher risk of illness (i.e., seniors)
    • Not visit or attend work in any highest risk settings.
    • Employees working in highest-risk settings should report their exposure and follow their workplace guidance on return to work.

Scenario B - Higher-risk groups

This applies to you if you are:

  • 12 years of age or older and not fully vaccinated

  • Immunocompromised (regardless of age or vaccination status) including cancer chemotherapy, untreated HIV infection with CD4 T lymphocyte count 20 mg/day (or equivalent) for more than 14 days and taking other immune suppressive medications.
  • Living in a highest risk setting
  • Hospitalized for COVID-19 related illness
  • Not severely ill

You must self-isolate and follow these instructions:

  • Isolate for 10 days from the date your symptoms started or the date of your positive test, if available (whichever is earlier). If you have symptoms, continue to isolate until your symptoms have been improving for 24 hours (or 48 hours if gastrointestinal symptoms) and you do not have a fever.

  • For a total of 10 days (or 20 days if you are immunocompromised) after the start of symptoms (or date of positive test result, whichever is earlier), you must:
    • Continue to wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings.
      • Wear a mask as much as possible in public settings (including school and child care, unless under 2 years old (24 months)). Exceptions would include removing the mask temporarily for essential activities like eating (e.g., when eating in shared space at school/work while maintaining as much distance from others as possible). 
      • You can participate in activities where a mask is worn, but you should avoid activities where removing the mask would be necessary (e.g., dining out, playing a wind instrument, high contact sports where masks cannot be safely worn).
      • People who are exempt from masking (e.g., children under two years of age (24 months), etc.) may return to public settings without wearing a mask
    • Not visit anyone who is immunocompromised or at higher risk of illness (i.e., seniors)
    • Not visit or attend work in any highest risk settings.
    • Employees working in highest-risk settings should report their exposure and follow their workplace guidance on return to work.
  • Download our tested positive letter with instructions

Scenario C - Severely ill individuals

This applies to you if you are:

  • Severely ill (requiring ICU level of care)

You must self-isolate and follow these instructions:

  • Isolate for 20 days from the date your symptoms started or the date of your positive test, if available (whichever is earlier). If you have symptoms, continue to isolate until your symptoms have been improving for 24 hours (or 48 hours if gastrointestinal symptoms) and you do not have a fever.

I was exposed outside my home to someone who has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19

The self-isolation instructions depend on your scenario. Please read carefully and follow the self-isolation instructions below that best describe your scenario. You can also complete this self-isolation determination tool to find out if you need to self-isolate. 


Scenario A - High-risk contacts who DO NOT live in a highest risk setting

This applies to you if you are:

  • A high-risk contact who does not live with the person who has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19 on a PCR or Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) test AND you do not live in a highest risk setting.

You must follow these instructions:

  • You are not required to self-isolate if you do not have symptoms. 

  • If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, you must assume that you are positive for COVID-19 and follow these self-isolation instructions.
  • For a total of 10 days after the last contact with the person who has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19 (on a PCR or RAT), you must:

    • Self-monitor for symptoms and self-isolate immediately if you develop any symptom of COVID-19. Follow the instructions above if you have tested positive on a PCR or rapid antigen test or have symptoms of COVID-19.
    • Continue to wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings
      • Wear a mask as much as possible in public settings (including school and child care, unless under 2 years old). Exceptions would include removing the mask temporarily for essential activities like eating (e.g., when eating in shared space at school/work while maintaining as much distance from others as possible). 
      • You can participate in activities where a mask is worn, but you should avoid activities where removing the mask would be necessary (e.g., dining out, playing a wind instrument, high contact sports where masks cannot be safely worn).
      • People who are exempt from masking (e.g., children under two years of age, etc.) may return to public settings without wearing a mask
    • Not visit anyone who is immunocompromised or at higher risk of illness (i.e., seniors).
    • Not visit or attend work in any highest risk settings.
    • Employees working in highest risk settings should report their exposure and follow their workplace guidance.

Scenario B - High-risk contacts who live in a highest risk setting

This applies to you if you are:

You must self-isolate and follow these instructions:

Scenario C - High-risk contacts who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days 

This applies to you if you are:

  • A high-risk contact who does not live with the person who has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19 on a PCR or Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) test AND do not live in a highest risk setting.

  • Someone who previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days on a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) or molecular test (PCR) only.

You must follow these instructions:

  • You are not required to self-isolate and can attend highest-risk settings, as long as you do not have any symptoms. You must self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days following your contact with the person who tested positive or has symptoms.

  • If you develop symptoms, you must assume that you are positive for COVID-19 and follow these self-isolation instructions.
  • For a total of 10 days after the last contact with the person who has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19 (on a PCR or RAT), you must: 
    • Self-monitor for symptoms and self-isolate if you develop any symptom of COVID-19 
    • Continue to wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings  
      • Wear a mask as much as possible in public settings (including school and child care, unless under 2 years old). Exceptions would include removing the mask temporarily for essential activities like eating (e.g., when eating in shared space at school/work while maintaining as much distance from others as possible).  
      • You can participate in activities where a mask is worn, but you should avoid activities where removing the mask would be necessary (e.g., dining out, playing a wind instrument, high contact sports where masks cannot be safely worn). 
      • People who are exempt from masking (e.g., children under two years of age, etc.) may return to public settings without wearing a mask 
    • Not visit anyone who is immunocompromised or at higher risk of illness (i.e., seniors). 
    • Employees working in highest risk settings should report their exposure and follow their workplace guidance. 
I live at home with someone who has symptoms or tested positive

The self-isolation instructions depend on your scenario. Please read carefully and follow the self-isolation instructions below that best describe your scenario. You can also complete this self-isolation determination tool to find out if you need to self-isolate. 

Scenario A - Household members who have not previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days

This applies to you if you are:

  • A household member who lives with the person who has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19 on a PCR or RAT and you have not tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days.

AND 

  • Are 18 years of age and older and have already received the booster dose.

OR

You must follow these instructions:

  • You are not required to self-isolate if you do not have symptoms.

  • If you develop symptoms, you must assume that you are positive for COVID-19 and follow these self-isolation instructions.
 You must follow these precautions

For a total of 10 days after the last exposure to the person who has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19, ALL household members must:

  • Self-monitor for symptoms and self-isolate if they develop any symptom of COVID-19 
  • Continue to wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings  
    • Wear a mask as much as possible in public settings (including school and child care, unless under 2 years old). Exceptions would include removing the mask temporarily for essential activities like eating (e.g., when eating in shared space at school/work while maintaining as much distance from others as possible).   
    • You can participate in activities where a mask is worn, but you should avoid activities where removing the mask would be necessary (e.g., dining out, playing a wind instrument, high contact sports where masks cannot be safely worn). 
    • People who are exempt from masking (e.g., children under two years of age, etc.) may return to public settings without wearing a mask. 
  • Not visit anyone who is immunocompromised or at higher risk of illness (i.e., seniors)  
  • Not visit or attend work in any highest risk settings (unless previously positive in the past 90 days).
  • Employees working in highest risk settings should report their exposure and follow their workplace guidance.

If more household members develop symptoms or test positive, the period of self-isolation and/or period to follow precautions for asymptomatic household members will be extended from the day the additional person developed symptoms or tested positive (the initial person with symptoms or a positive test result is not required to extend their period of following additional precautions).

Example:

  • Person A tests positive on a RAT and is required to self-isolate for five days based on their health status.
  • Person A lives with four household members who are all fully vaccinated and received the booster.
  • The household members would be required to follow the additional precautions listed above for 10 days.
  • Another household member (Person B) develops symptoms and begins self-isolating.
  • The remaining household members are required to re-start their 10 days of additional precautions following the last date of exposure to person B. Person A is required to follow the additional precautions for a total of 10 days from their symptoms onset or positive test result. They are not required to re-start their 10 days of additional precautions if more household members develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 on a PCR or RAT.

Scenario B - Household members who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days

This applies to you if you are:

  • A household member who lives with the person who has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19 on a PCR or RAT

AND 

  • Have previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days (based on positive PCR or RAT).

You must follow these instructions:

You must follow these precautions

For a total of 10 days after the last exposure to the person who has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19, ALL household members must:

  • Self-monitor for symptoms and self-isolate if they develop any symptom of COVID-19 
  • Continue to wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings  
    • Wear a mask as much as possible in public settings (including school and child care, unless under 2 years old). Exceptions would include removing the mask temporarily for essential activities like eating (e.g., when eating in shared space at school/work while maintaining as much distance from others as possible).   
    • You can participate in activities where a mask is worn, but you should avoid activities where removing the mask would be necessary (e.g., dining out, playing a wind instrument, high contact sports where masks cannot be safely worn). 
    • People who are exempt from masking (e.g., children under two years of age, etc.) may return to public settings without wearing a mask. 
  • Not visit anyone who is immunocompromised or at higher risk of illness (i.e., seniors)  
  • Employees working in highest risk settings should report their exposure and follow their workplace guidance.

If more household members develop symptoms or test positive, the period of self-isolation and/or period to follow precautions for asymptomatic household members will be extended from the day the additional person developed symptoms or tested positive (the initial person with symptoms or a positive test result is not required to extend their period of following additional precautions).

Example:

  • Person A tests positive on a RAT and is required to self-isolate for five days based on their health status.
  • Person A lives with four household members who are all fully vaccinated and received the booster.
  • The household members would be required to follow the additional precautions listed above for 10 days.
  • Another household member (Person B) develops symptoms and begins self-isolating.
  • The remaining household members are required to re-start their 10 days of additional precautions following the last date of exposure to person B. Person A is required to follow the additional precautions for a total of 10 days from their symptoms onset or positive test result. They are not required to re-start their 10 days of additional precautions if more household members develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 on a PCR or RAT.

Scenario C - Household members who are not part of Scenario A or B

This applies to you if you are:

  • A household member who lives with the person who has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19 on a PCR or RAT but are not part of Scenario A or B.

You must self-isolate and follow these instructions:

  • You must self-isolate for the same amount of time as the person who has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19 on a PCR or RAT).

  • If another household member develops COVID-19 symptoms, you should extend your self-isolation until the last person with symptoms, or a positive result has finished their self-isolation period (the initial person with symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test result [on a PCR or RAT] does not have to extend their self-isolation period).
  • If you develop symptoms, you must assume that you are positive for COVID-19 and follow these self-isolation instructions.
 You must follow these precautions

If self-isolation is complete in less than 10 days, for a total of 10 days after the last exposure to the person who has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19, ALL household members must:

  • Self-monitor for symptoms and self-isolate if they develop any symptom of COVID-19 
  • Continue to wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings  
    • Wear a mask as much as possible in public settings (including school and child care, unless under 2 years old). Exceptions would include removing the mask temporarily for essential activities like eating (e.g., when eating in shared space at school/work while maintaining as much distance from others as possible).   
    • You can participate in activities where a mask is worn, but you should avoid activities where removing the mask would be necessary (e.g., dining out, playing a wind instrument, high contact sports where masks cannot be safely worn). 
    • People who are exempt from masking (e.g., children under two years of age, etc.) may return to public settings without wearing a mask. 
  • Not visit anyone who is immunocompromised or at higher risk of illness (i.e., seniors)  
  • Not visit or attend work in any highest risk settings (unless previously positive in the past 90 days).
  • Employees working in highest risk settings should report their exposure and follow their workplace guidance.

If more household members develop symptoms or test positive, the period of self-isolation and/or period to follow precautions for asymptomatic household members will be extended from the day the additional person developed symptoms or tested positive (the initial person with symptoms or a positive test result is not required to extend their period of following additional precautions).

Example:

  • Person A tests positive on a RAT and is required to self-isolate for five days based on their health status.
  • Person A lives with four household members who are all fully vaccinated and received the booster.
  • The household members would be required to follow the additional precautions listed above for 10 days.
  • Another household member (Person B) develops symptoms and begins self-isolating.
  • The remaining household members are required to re-start their 10 days of additional precautions following the last date of exposure to person B. Person A is required to follow the additional precautions for a total of 10 days from their symptoms onset or positive test result. They are not required to re-start their 10 days of additional precautions if more household members develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 on a PCR or RAT.

I travelled internationally, what are the federal quarantine rules?

If you traveled, follow the self-isolation directions from the federal Quarantine Officer. More information on travel and quarantine is available from the Government of Canada travel website.

Related topics

Do I need to report my positive test result to OPH?
People who have symptoms or test positive on a rapid antigen test and are not eligible for PCR testing are presumed to have COVID-19 and must follow self-isolation instructions.

Please note, you do not need a confirmatory PCR test if you tested positive for COVID-19 on a Rapid Antigen test. It is not necessary to report positive Rapid Antigen test results to OPH.

Why am I still testing positive following isolation?

PCR Test after infection:
Continuing to test positive after recovery from COVID-19 infection is common. Some people still testing positive on a PCR test for weeks or months after their initial infection. This is because the PCR test is detecting viral remains that are no longer living and unable to cause infection. This means you are no longer contagious. Therefore, it is not recommended that individuals without symptoms undergo PCR testing for at least 90 days after the initial COVID-19 infection. If the person develops new symptoms of COVID-19 within that 90 day period, consult a health care provider to help with the decision on whether to do further testing. Note that individuals who develop new symptoms of COVID-19 should complete the provincial screening tool and follow the isolation and mask use instructions provided.


Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) after infection:
If a person tests positive using a RAT, with or without symptoms, they should follow isolation and mask use guidelines until they have completed the required self-isolation period and symptoms have been improving for 24 hours, even if a test repeated within the isolation period is negative.
By 10 days after developing symptoms or testing positive (20 days if immunocompromised), there are very few people who have any remaining viable virus which means they are no longer contagious. Therefore, required isolation and masking precautions can be ended based on time from symptom onset or positive test date (whichever is earlier) and further testing is not recommended.

After testing positive for COVID-19 on either a PCR test or RAT, individuals can begin participating in RAT screening programs (e.g., workplace programs that test for COVID-19 infection regularly in those without symptoms) 30 days after the initial COVID-19 infection. If the person develops new symptoms of COVID-19 during the 30 day period following a positive RAT, consult a health care provider to help with the decision on whether to do further testing. Note that individuals who develop new symptoms of COVID-19 should complete the provincial screening tool and follow the isolation and mask use instructions provided.

Frequently Asked Questions about Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) and PCR tests

I have symptoms and I have done a RAT that is positive

You are no longer required or encouraged to get a confirmatory PCR or rapid molecular test. It is not necessary to report positive Rapid Antigen test results to OPH.

If you test positive from a rapid antigen test or are presumed positive based on your symptoms, see isolation instructions. 

Household contacts of individuals who test positive or are presumed positive based on their symptoms may be required to self-isolate.  

You should also reach your non-household contacts by providing them with the high-risk contact letter (pdf - 212 KB, this document is not in an accessible format). Individuals who are eligible for a lab-based PCR test are encouraged to get tested.

I have symptoms and I have done a RAT that is negative

If you complete two RATs, separated by 24-48 hours, and both are negative, you may end self-isolation once your symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours (or 48 hours if gastrointestinal). Your household members may also discontinue self-isolation, as long as they are asymptomatic.

If you are required to isolate as a high-risk contact of COVID-19, please complete your isolation period.

If you are not able to complete two RATs, you are presumed positive based on your symptoms and you must follow the self-isolation instructions for people who have symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 on a PCR test or RAT. You are no longer required or encouraged to get a confirmatory PCR or rapid molecular test.

Household contacts of individuals who test positive or are presumed positive based on their symptoms may be required to self-isolate.  

You should also reach your non-household contacts by providing them with the high-risk contact letter (pdf - 212 KB, this document is not in an accessible format). Individuals who are eligible for a lab-based PCR test are encouraged to get tested.

I do not have symptoms and I have done a RAT that is positive

You are no longer required or encouraged to get a confirmatory PCR or rapid molecular test. It is not necessary to report positive Rapid Antigen test results to OPH.

If you test positive from a rapid antigen test or are presumed positive based on your symptoms, see isolation instructions.

Household contacts of individuals who test positive or are presumed positive based on their symptoms may be required to self-isolate.  

You should also reach your non-household contacts by providing them with the high-risk contact letter (pdf - 212 KB, this document is not in an accessible format). Individuals who are eligible for a lab-based PCR test are encouraged to get tested.

I do not have symptoms and I have done a RAT that is negative

You do not need to self-isolate unless you are isolating because of a close contact (and meet the criteria for self-isolation).

I have symptoms but I tested negative on a PCR test. Do I (and my contacts) still need to isolate?

People who have symptoms that are eligible for testing and test negative on a PCR test may discontinue isolation once symptoms have been improving for 24 hours (or 48 hours for gastrointestinal) unless you were aware of or notified that you were exposed to someone who tested positive or had symptoms of COVID-19. If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19 and are required to self-isolate, you must complete your required isolation even with a negative PCR test. Household members of people who get a negative PCR test and do not have any symptoms, no longer need to isolate.

Accessing medical care during self-isolation

You must follow the self-isolation requirements. This is the law. However, there may be exemptions allowed in certain situations.

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). You can break isolation in order to seek urgent medical care.

Note that urgent medical care includes babies under 3 months of age with a fever who should be seen by CHEO or the nearest emergency department. Be sure to tell the hospital you are COVID-19 positive or isolating due to symptoms or being a close contact. For non-emergency situations where you need medical help, visit a COVID-19 Care Clinic.

Isolation may also be broken to attend essential medical appointments with a healthcare professional that cannot be delayed, such as attending appointments for newborns 24-72 hours after discharge from hospital. Please discuss this with your healthcare provider before attending your appointment.

 

Outdoor exercise during self-isolation

You may leave your home for outdoor exercise by yourself or with a caregiver. You must maintain physical distance of at least two metres (six feet) from others at all times and wear a mask in common areas when leaving if you live in an apartment building, condo, or hotel. You must not go to outdoor fitness classes or personal training sessions. Do not attend any indoor fitness activities.

Definitions

Fully vaccinated

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., 2 doses of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca/COVIDSHIELD, Novavax or Medicago OR 1 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).

Return to self-isolation instructions

High risk contact 

A high-risk contact is someone who was in close contact with a person who had symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19 during the time they could transmit the virus to others (period of communicability). A person’s period of communicability is 48 hours before their first symptom started, or 48 hours before their test date (if they have no symptoms) until their self-isolation period has ended. Close contact is being within two meters (six feet) of a person who had symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19 for more than a brief encounter or having multiple close encounters, without adequate protection. See our Masks page for more information on using masks.

Some examples of high-risk situations include:

  • Physical contact such as shaking someone’s hand, hugging kissing, being sneezed or coughed on
  • Living in the same household (this excludes individuals who live in a completely separate unit such as a self-contained basement apartment)
  • Providing care to someone (e.g., taking care of an elderly parent).

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.

Please share this high-risk contact letter (PDF - 250 KB) to anyone you were in close contact 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. (This document is not in an accessible format.)

Return to self-isolation instructions

Highest-risk setting

Highest risk settings include:

  • Hospitals+, including complex continuing care facilities. 
  • Congregate living settings, including, Long-Term Care, retirement homes, First Nation elder care lodges, group homes, shelters, hospices, correctional institutions and hospital schools.
  • Workplace and living settings for international agricultural workers.

+Health care settings to be considered are locations where a high number of patients are immunocompromised (e.g., dialysis clinics, outpatient chemotherapy clinics, transplant clinics). Follow your employer’s guidelines for returning to work. If your employer is not providing guidelines for returning to work, health care workers should assess the risks and benefits of returning to work after five days of isolation. Consider if returning to work may result in multiple high-risk individuals (as defined above) being infected due to the small risk of still transmitting the virus.

In general, most community settings would not be considered highest-risk (e.g., dental, optometry).

Child-care facilities including schools are not considered ‘highest risk’ unless they are a congregate living setting and/or are associated with a health care environment for immunocompromised or otherwise medically complex individuals (e.g., respite care). 

Return to self-isolation instructions

Last exposure

Last exposure refers to the last day the household member was exposed to the person who is isolating with COVID-19 symptoms, or a positive COVID-19 test result:

  • If unable to effectively self-isolate in the home, household members would have ongoing exposure until the end of the isolation period of the person who has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19.
  • If there is ongoing exposure, the last day of exposure to the person who has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19 is the last day of the isolation period of the person who has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19.

For example, if a child with COVID-19 was self-isolating from Monday to Saturday, the ‘last exposure’ for the parent who was caring for the COVID-19 positive child would be Saturday.

Return to self-isolation instructions

Symptoms of COVID-19

As molecular testing (PCR and rapid molecular testing) is prioritized for those at increased risk of severe outcomes and those living and working in highest risk settings, molecular testing is no longer being recommended for all individuals in the community with symptoms of COVID-19. People who have symptoms and are not eligible for PCR testing are presumed to have COVID-19 and must follow these self-isolation instructions. Complete this self-isolation determination tool to determine your self isolation instructions.

Download our handout : You have symptoms and are concerned you may have COVID-19. Now what?

COVID-19 symptoms 

Type

Symptoms

(new or worsening, and not related to other known causes or conditions you already have)

Most common symptoms of COVID-19 

  • Fever and/or chills (Temperature of 37.8 degrees Celsius/100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.)
  • Cough or barking cough (croup) (Continuous, more than usual, making a whistling noise when breathing (not related to asthma, post-infectious reactive airways, COPD).)
  • Shortness of breath (Out of breath, unable to breathe deeply (not related to asthma).)
  • Decrease or loss of taste or smell (Not related to seasonal allergies, neurological disorders.)

Other symptoms of COVID-19

 

 

  • Sore throat (Painful swallowing or difficulty swallowing (not related to seasonal allergies, acid reflux, post-nasal drip).)
  • Runny or stuffy/congested nose (Not related to seasonal allergies, being outside in cold weather, chronic sinusitis unchanged from baseline.)
  • Muscle aches/ Joint pain (That is unexplained or unusual (not related to related to a sudden injury, fibromyalgia, or receiving a COVID-19 vaccine the past 48 hours).)
  • Headache (New and persistent, unusual, unexplained, or long-lasting (not related to tension-type headaches, chronic migraines, receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in the last 48 hours).)
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting/diarrhea)
  • Extreme tiredness, lack of energy or feeling unwell (That is unusual or unexpected (not related to other known causes or conditions or receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in the past 48 hours).)

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