Frequently asked questions

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Ontario Strengthens Enforcement of Stay-at-Home Order

New Provincial restrictions in effect as of April 17, 2021 at 12:01 a.m.

An illustration of two people wearing masks. On their left is written who can currently get the COVID-19? Vaccine? A button containing the word learn more.

Last revised on February 10, 2020

Questions and answers about COVID-19 can be found on the Government of Canada's COVID-19 webpage. Questions about:

Learn more about Long-Term Care Homes (LTCH) and Retirement Homes (RH).

Questions from the Ottawa community

COVID-19 response

How many confirmed cases of COVID-19 are there in Ottawa?
A confirmed case is a person who has a laboratory confirmed positive COVID-19 test result. Ottawa Public Health provides up-to-date information on the number of confirmed cases in the COVID-19 DashboardThe Dashboard is updated daily at 12:30 pm. 
What is Ottawa Public Health doing in response to this situation?

Ottawa Public Health continues to actively monitor this situation in collaboration with our provincial and national health colleagues, and stakeholders that include local hospitals and community agencies.
Positive COVID-19 test results are reportable to local health authorities under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. Ottawa Public Health, as part of the case management process, follows up with individuals who test positive for a reportable infectious disease, including COVID-19.

When a positive test result is received by OPH, case management staff will:

  • Contact the person who has tested positive for COVID-19
  • Assess the person’s health status
  • Teach how to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19
  • Teach how to self-isolate and confirm the length of required self-isolation 
  • Teach what steps to take if symptoms worsen and a person is not able to manage at home
  • Collect a list of high-risk contacts including household contacts

OPH will also complete contact tracing which includes:

  • Following up with high risk household contacts
  • Following up with non-household high-risk contacts as deemed necessary
  • Reviewing where and when to go for testing
  • Teaching how to self-isolate
  • Determining length of self-isolation

In addition, OPH’s Infection and Prevention Control Team (IPAC) follows up with institutions, child care settings, congregate setting or schools to ensure appropriate public health measures are in place.

What are Canadian public health officials doing in response to this situation?

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is actively monitoring the situation. They are in close contact with the World Health Organization to assess any potential risk to Canadians.

The Government of Canada, provinces and territories have multiple systems in place to identify, prevent and control the spread of serious infectious diseases into and within Canada.

How are other congregate care setting being supported?

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is supporting congregate care settings such as shelters, rooming homes, group homes, correctional institutions, and isolation and physical distancing centres by:

  • Providing information and guidance to staff and residents on topics such as personal protective equipment access and use, screening, enhanced infection prevention and control measures.
  • Working with community partners to relocate residents out of shelters and temporary housing into other accommodations to support physical distancing efforts.
  • Providing staff with guidance and support to quickly identify and isolate individuals with symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Increasing availability of screening and mobile testing (e.g., Ottawa Inner-City Health’s Mobile Assessment Van) help ensure equitable service for these communities.
  • Putting collaborative responses in place to assist with the self-isolation of residents/families who have tested positive for the virus at designated isolation centres, when possible.
  • Declaring and monitoring any outbreaks.
  • Working with congregate care operators to review control measures and conduct site visits for the duration of any outbreaks.
  • Working with community partners, including Ottawa Inner City Health, Community and Social Services Department, Somerset West Community Health Centre, and Centertown Community Health Centre, to identify and address the unmet needs of people living in rooming houses in Ottawa during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Collaborating with the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Children and Community Social Services and the Ministry of the Solicitor General to ensure that guidelines and regulations are consistently applied.

In addition, the Champlain COVID-19 Response Committee (CCRC) has created the Champlain Health Region Congregate Care & Living Operations Task Force, which includes representation from Ottawa Community Paramedics and OPH. These partners are actively supporting congregate settings with surveillance testing for COVID-19 to reduce transmission.

Is there a vaccine being developed for COVID-19?
Yes. Canada has approved a COVID-19 Vaccine and Ontario has a rollout out plan for vaccinating the province. Learn more about vaccines.

Diagnosis and testing

How is the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnosed? 

It is diagnosed by a health care provider based on travel history, symptoms and laboratory tests. If you would like to be tested, please visit our COVID-19 testing information page. 

If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, use the Ontario Government self-assessment tool to help determine how to seek further care. 

In order to decrease transmission of COVID-19 in Ottawa, it is imperative that all residents of Ottawa be COVIDWise. 

If I was tested, how long does it take to get results?

It usually takes approximately 24 hours to a few days to receive test results for COVID-19. You must self-isolate while awaiting test results and follow the instructions on the Tested for COVID-19, What Now Handout. Find out where to get tested

You can access your COVID-19 test results through the Ontario Government’s online portal. This portal offers fast and secure access to test results on your computer and mobile device.  

When do I need to self-isolate?

You must self-isolate* if you:

For more information about self-isolation please visit the OPH Self-isolation Instructions for Novel Coronavirus webpage.

*Please note that the self-isolation requirement for residents of Ottawa may differ from those in other health units.

For all Ottawa residents who are not currently self-isolating, remember to be COVID Wise:

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

– 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.

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

How can I care for myself or my family members with COVID-19?

If you or someone in your household tests positive for COVID-19 everyone in the household will need to self-isolate. Ottawa Public Health will be in contact with you to provide information on when to get tested and how long to self-isolate.

It is important for the person who tested positive for COVID-19 to separate themselves from other people in the home, as much as possible. This includes staying and sleeping in a different room and using a separate bathroom from other people. If this is not possible, shared rooms and bathrooms should be well ventilated and bathrooms cleaned between each use. When in shared spaces, household members should wear masks, stay at least two metres (six feet) apart and limit their time together. Avoid sharing household items including dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding etc.

Most people with COVID-19 will have mild symptoms and recover on their own. If you or members of your family are ill with COVID-19, remember to:

You or your family member will want to:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Get rest and sleep as much as possible
  • Use fever reducing medications according to the label and in consultation with your health-care provider or pharmacist
  • Try a humidifier or hot shower to help with a sore throat or cough
  • Have all family members practice good hand hygiene and maintain at least two metre distancing where possible
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces in your home that are touched often, including but not limited to counters and doorknobs. Consider using a solution of 20 mL of bleach with one litre of water (or four tsp of bleach with four cups of water) to disinfect surfaces.
  • When caring for someone with COVID-19, protect yourself by wearing a medical mask, eye protection (face shield or goggles) and disposable gloves; do not re-use medical masks or gloves and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with uncleaned or gloved hands.
  • Contact your health care provider if your symptoms worsen or are not resolving
  • Call Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000 or Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744 if you have any questions

If you are in distress (significant trouble breathing, chest pain, fainting, or have a significant worsening of any chronic disease symptom), go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 9-1-1.

For more information on how to care for someone with COVID-19 at home please visit the following Government of Canada website.

Should I get re-tested once I have recovered from COVID-19?

No. Ottawa Public Health and the Province of Ontario do not recommend re-testing after finishing isolation. Another test is not needed as those who have recovered from COVID-19 infection can test positive for a few weeks or months after recovery.

When all the following criteria are met you will be “cleared” of the COVID-19 infection:

  1. You have completed 10 days of self- isolation and
  2. You have no fever (without the use of fever reducing medication) and
  3. Your symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours. Provincial Guidance is available to provide individuals with further details about the required amount of self-isolation and recovery time based on COVID-19 test results.

After testing positive for COVID-19, do I need a negative test to resume activities, such as work and going out in public?

No. Ottawa Public Health and the Province of Ontario do not recommend re-testing after finishing isolation. Another test is not needed as those who have recovered from COVID-19 infection can test positive for a few weeks or months after recovery. Instead, it is recommended to use a non-test-based approach.

Your COVID-19 infection is considered “cleared” when all of the following criteria are met:

  1. You have completed 10 days of self- isolation and
  2. You have no fever (without the use of fever reducing medication) and
  3. Your symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours

Provincial Guidance is available to provide individuals with further details about the required amount of self-isolation and recovery time based on COVID-19 test results.

Why am I still testing positive for COVID-19 after my self-isolation period has ended? Am I still contagious?

No. Continuing to test positive after recovery from COVID-19 infection is common, with some studies showing that half of people who have had COVID-19 will still test positive two to four weeks after their first test. This is because the test is detecting viral remnants that are no longer living and unable to cause infection. Therefore, you can no longer transmit the infectionAfter recovery, some people have continued to receive positive tests for two months, and some people have received a negative test, followed by another positive test. For these reasons, Ottawa Public Health and the Province of Ontario do not recommend the routine use of a negative test to show recovery from COVID-19 nor is it recommended to do repeat testing in the three months following initial COVID-19 infection in people without symptoms (e.g. as part of surveillance testing). 

When all the following criteria are met you will be “cleared” of the COVID-19 infection:

  1. You have completed 10 days of self-isolation and
  2. You have no fever (without the use of fever reducing medication) and
  3. Your symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours
Is there a possibility that a person who gets the virus once can get it again?

Yes. However, most people who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection will have some immunity to protect against future infection or to make a future infection less severe. The body’s immune response against COVID-19, including how long immunity lasts, is not yet fully understood. There is limited information about reinfections because the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 illness (the virus itself is called SARS-CoV-2) has only been known since January 2020 and reinfection would be unlikely in the first few months after the first infection. However, a small number of these cases have been reported in the world scientific literature. Some people may shed detectable COVID-19 coronavirus for weeks to months, even though they are not contagious to others. For this reason, a retest some months after initial infection may show a positive test result but it is unlikely to be because of a reinfection.

Reinfections with COVID-19 within three months of initial infection are unlikely but later reinfections may be possible. If a person who has recovered from COVID-19 has new symptoms of COVID-19, the person may need an evaluation for reinfection, especially if the person has had close contact with someone infected with COVID-19. The person should self-isolate and contact a healthcare provider to be evaluated for other causes of their symptoms and possibly be tested. All persons, whether having had a known COVID-19 infection or not, should continue to practice safety measures that will help reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 including:

  • Wear a mask
  • Don’t touch your face with unwashed hands
  • Keep at least two metres (six feet) from others
  • Stay home and get tested if sick

Ottawa Public Health encourages you to be Social Wise and COVID Wise to protect yourself and others.  We need to continue to consider that any individual we encounter may be at risk for infection.

Taking care of yourself

Am I at risk for contracting COVID-19 if I receive a package or products by mail?
While COVID-19 can survive on some surfaces for varying lengths of time, transmission through contact with contaminated surfaces (for example where individuals touch a contaminated surface and then touch their own nose, eyes or mouth without first washing their hands) is not thought to be a major contributor to the spread of COVID-19, particularly in comparison to spread through inhalation of respiratory droplets from an infected person. People delivering and receiving packages should perform proper hand hygiene (washing hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer) regularly and always before touching their own faces (particularly mouth, nose or eyes, or face mask). Consistently performing proper hand hygiene after handling any items means that no waiting period is required for handling donated food items, mail or packages. 
How do I handle waste products at home? 

During COVID-19, Ottawa’s Green Bin program is accepting plastic bags as a bagging option for organic waste. Used paper facial tissues should be placed in plastic bags and can go in the green bin as per regular waste disposal practices.

Residents should continue to practice proper hygiene when handling any waste by thoroughly cleaning their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Clean any surfaces that may have come in contact with waste products with a household disinfectant. You can use 20 mL of bleach with one litre of water (or four tsp of bleach with four cups of water) as an easy disinfectant.

City staff and contractors continue to use the precautions that are already in place to protect workers from the hazards of handling municipal waste. In addition, the City is taking steps to ensure a steady supply of personal protective equipment for front-line staff. Ottawa Public Health manages the disposal of hazardous waste and has protocols in place to ensure its safe handling. 

Where can Ottawa residents find mental health supports during the pandemic?

Information on Mental Health and COVID-19 is available on the OPH website. Please know that support is available and OPH encourages residents to reach out to the Distress Centre of Ottawa to connect with someone at 613-238-3311.

If you are in crisis, please contact the Mental Health Crisis Line (24 hours a day/seven days a week) at 613-722-6914 or if outside Ottawa toll-free at 1-866-996-0991. 

If you (or your child) are experiencing thoughts of suicide or harming yourself, please call 9-1-1. 

Everyone experiences these events in their own way. It is completely normal to feel stress and concern during these times. It's ok to not be ok.

What precautions should I take when handling my groceries to limit the possible transmission of germs/viruses?
COVID-19 is a type of coronavirus. Although there are still things we are learning about COVID-19, we do know that other coronaviruses do not survive very long on surfaces like cereal boxes or canned foods. Coronaviruses are usually spread through respiratory droplets (for example when someone coughs or sneezes). There is currently no evidence that people have become infected with COVID-19 through items bought at a grocery store. Still, it might be possible that the item you handled or bought was recently touched by someone who had COVID-19 on their unwashed hands. The best way to protect yourself is by washing your hands often with soap and water, including after handling your groceries. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running tap water is recommended as per normal when preparing foods. Always wash your hands with soap and water before washing fruits and veggies and between handling different kinds of foods. Visit Ottawa Public Health’s Keeping foods safe (clean, cook, chill, separate) for more information.
Alcohol and COVID-19: Know the Facts

According to a new Nanos poll commissioned by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), Canadians under 54 are drinking more while at home due to COVID-19. The main reasons for the increase among those who report drinking more are a lack of regular schedule (51%), boredom (49%) and stress (44%).

General myths about alcohol and COVID-19

Myth: Drinking alcohol kills the virus that causes COVID-19.

Fact: Drinking alcohol will not disinfect your mouth and throat and will not protect you from COVID 19 or prevent you from being infected by it.

Myth: Alcohol (beer, wine, distilled spirits or herbal alcohol) makes the immune system stronger and makes you more resistant to COVID-19.

Fact: Alcohol can in fact weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to COVID-19 and other illnesses.

Myth: Drinking alcohol helps you to cope with stress.

Fact: Alcohol is known to increase the symptoms of panic and anxiety disorders, depression and other mental disorders, and the risk of family and domestic violence.

Remember drinking alcohol will not protect you from COVID-19. For more information visit the PAHO/WHO website

If you choose to drink, drink responsibly and follow Canada's Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines to reduce short and long-term risks. 

For more information, visit the OPH website on alcohol and local resources.

Pool/Hot Tub Sharing
If you are planning to allow people outside of your household to use your pool and/or hot tub when it is not in use by you and your household members, keep the following in mind: 
  • Pools/hot tubs that are properly operated, maintained and disinfected should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19
  • Risk of transmission of COVID-19 still exists if you are in close proximity with members outside of your household. Learn more on the Province of Ontario's Framework for Reopening our Province: Stage 2  
  • Commonly touched surfaces and items such as chairs, outdoor tables, play equipment, inflatable water toys and pool/hot tub cleaning equipment may become contaminated when used by others

 For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website

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

COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through direct contact to the respiratory droplets of an infected person. While ventilation of indoor environments with fresh air is important, 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).

– 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.

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

Poor ventilation in indoor spaces is linked with increased transmission of respiratory infections, particularly if the space is small. Transmission of COVID-19 has been associated with closed spaces, including by people who are pre-symptomatic. It is therefore important that, along with COVIDWise measures, proper ventilation – preferably with fresh air (e.g., by opening windows and doors) – is practiced, whenever possible.

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

There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be 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 bringing fresh outdoor air to indoor spaces while at the same time, removing the inside air that people have exhaled.

Within a single room, however, air conditioners and fans may increase the distance in which a virus can be transmitted. To help prevent the flow of air from infected areas into other areas and reduce the concentration of virus particles in these areas:

  • Minimize the use of air conditioners and fans (e.g., by using the lowest setting)
  • Direct airflow away from surfaces and people
  • Increase natural ventilation by opening a window if weather permits

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

That being said, COVIDWise behavior remains the best way to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus indoors.

For further reference on HVAC systems, the following web-based resources are available:


Am I at risk for contracting COVID-19 by walking past someone? 
Make an effort to step-aside or pass others quickly and courteously on sidewalks. Passing someone on the sidewalk is not considered close contact or a significant risk for exposure to COVID-19.
What can members of the public (including schools and workplaces) do to protect themselves?

The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the COVID-19 virus. To decrease the spread of COVID-19 Ottawa Public Health encourages everyone to be Social Wise and COVID Wise and follow these recommendations: 

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

- 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.  

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

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. 
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. 
  • Stay home when you are sick. 
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. 
Are there precautions I should take when picking up a returning international traveller from the airport?

Yes. Ottawa Public Health recommends that a returning international traveler should preferably use a private vehicle. Travellers must wear a suitable non-medical mask while in transit, unless they are alone in the vehicle. Public transportation is not to be used. If a personal or private vehicle is not available, they may take a taxi or ride-share, but need to wear a surgical/procedure mask and sit in the rear passenger side seat with the windows open, weather permitting. If possible, the client should also note the taxi company name and operator number in case there is a need for contact. They must go directly to their place of quarantine/self-isolation, without making any unnecessary stops.

Please refer to the Government of Canada website for more information.

When would wearing gloves be recommended?

Disposable gloves (one use only) are recommended to protect yourself when caring for someone with COVID-19 especially when touching someone who has COVID-19, touching surfaces within their environment, handling their soiled items and while cleaning and disinfecting.

When you are wearing gloves remember:

  • To wash your hands properly for at least 15 seconds with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before you put on gloves and after removing them
  • Do not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth with gloved hands
  • Do not touch your mask with your gloves (if you are wearing some)
  • Do not touch your personal items (e.g. cell phone, bag) with your gloves so you don’t contaminate them
  • To throw the gloves out in a closed lined garbage bin immediately after taking them off

Wearing gloves for everyday activities in public is not recommended and can make you feel more protected from the COVID-19 virus than you are. Wearing gloves can increase the risk of getting COVID-19 if you touch objects and surfaces and then touch your eyes, nose and mouth with gloved hands.

What do I need to know about going to a movie theatre or play?

If you are planning on going to a movie or play* when theatres are open, here are some things you need to know:

  • You need to wear a mask at all times in the cinema or theatre space ( their seats, hallways, washrooms, concession stands) except when eating or drinking  
  • Individuals from the same household can sit next to each other in a theatre
  • Physical distancing remains imperative. A minimum of two metres (six feet) should be maintained between seats that hold individuals from different households
  • Singing and shouting should be avoided by audience members

* This is specific to entertainment where there is no singing.

To stay up to date on current information, please refer to the province of Ontario’s COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open.

Gatherings and celebrations

What can I do about religious celebrations and invitations? 

Ottawa Public Health continues to advise that limiting activities to members of your own household remains important to limit the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. We must all practice physical distancing and keep two metres or six feet away from people not in our own household.
During times of the year when celebrations are happening:

  • Limit gatherings with others in person to celebrate
  • Use technology to connect with others
  • Spend more time with your own family who live with you
  • Create new traditions at home, cook your favourite food together, decorate together, play games together for example

To stay up to date on current information, please refer to the Province of Ontario’s COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open.

What precautions should I take with an indoor or outdoor wedding ceremony and reception?

To keep everyone safer, OPH recommends to:

  1. Follow Provincial guidelines on the number of people allowed to attend wedding ceremonies &/or receptions (indoors and outdoors)
  2. Follow OPH COVID-19 Guidance for Special Events
  3. Ensure there is enough space to allow for physical distancing
  4. Be COVID-Wise and Be Social-Wise

Along with being COVID-Wise and being Social-Wise, here are some extra precautions to take during your wedding ceremony and reception:

If necessary, people can remove masks when:

  • Making a speech
  • Saying vows
  • Performing a first dance (if on a stage that is not accessed by the public)
  • Walking down the aisle while physical distancing is maintained

People can only remove masks for outdoor pictures. Any individuals that are not part of the same household need to maintain physical distancing (two metres/six feet).

OPH recommends against singing and loud speeches in indoor settings. If you choose to sing or have loud speeches, you need to make sure you are meeting provincial regulations. In this situation, OPH also recommends taking an added precaution. The extra measure is to increase the distance between officiant or speaker and audience to five metres. You also need to follow the provincial minimum distances and other requirements such as shielding between officiants, singers or any performers. Other measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission during officiation/speeches include:

  • Masking
  • Using a microphone to avoid projecting the voice not sharing microphones
  • Limiting contamination of objects (e.g. microphone, podium)
  • Frequent environmental cleaning
  • Improving ventilation

If the wedding couple wish to ‘perform’ a first dance, they should do so at least two metres from attendants. Group dancing at a reception is not permitted.

Workplace and businesses

As an employer, what do I need to do to prevent the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Visit our webpage about COVID-19 information for workplaces which provides many recommendations.
Which businesses are allowed to open?
To stay up-to-date on current information, please refer to the Province of Ontario’s COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open

Information about Long-Term Care Homes (LTCH) and Retirement Homes (RH)

Supporting LTCHs and RHs during COVID-19


All Long-Term Care Homes (LTCH) in Ontario are part of the provincial health care system and are licensed, regulated and inspected by the Ministry of Long-Term Care. The majority of LTCHs in Ottawa are operated privately, some are non-profit and a small portion (four) are City-run, not-for-profit facilities.

Managing infectious disease outbreaks in LTCHs

During any infectious disease outbreak in a LTCH, it is important to institute measures to prevent and control the spread of the infection in the facility, while balancing the daily life of the residents in the LTCH. Usually, when an outbreak is declared in a particular unit or floor, Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) measures are implemented in that area to prevent the spread to other areas of the building

Ottawa Public Health’s role
As per Ministry of Health guidance, if one person in a LTCH or RH tests positive for the COVID-19 virus it results in the declaration of an institutional outbreak. Once an outbreak is declared in an institution, members of OPH’s IPAC team serve as a direct liaison to that institution and provide support by:
  • Investigating people who test positive for COVID-19 virus and their contacts
  • Conducting initial and ongoing on-site visit, as required
  • Providing recommendations for testing of residents and staff according to the current Ministry of Health guidelines (all residents and staff on floors with a COVID-19 outbreak are to be tested, whether or not they have symptoms)
  • Provides COVID-19 test swabs and linking facilities to sources of provincial Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies, if needed
  • Conducting on-going surveillance for the duration of the outbreak
  • Supporting the LTCH/RH throughout the outbreak to ensure all infection prevention and control requirements have been implemented to control the outbreak

Outbreak management activities also include providing guidance on institutional policies, supporting the implementation of physical distancing/isolation measures and ensuring protocols are in place for enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, particularly of high touch surfaces within the institution.

Province of Ontario’s role

LTCHs are part of the provincial health care system and the Ministry of Long-Term Care is responsible to regulating, licensing and inspecting all LTCHs. The Long-Term Care Home Quality Inspection Program (LQIP) safeguards residents’ well-being by investigating complaints and critical incidents and by ensuring that all LTCHs are inspected at least once per year. Inspection reports for homes are available.

During COVID-19, the Ministry of Health provides directives to LTCHs with respect to managing cases and outbreaks and is the lead for providing PPE.

Contact information for families with loved ones in LTCH
Concerned families and friends should communicate directly with the LTCH about their loved ones at the facility. Concerns with the operation of a LTCH should be directed to the Ministry of Long-Term Care through their complaint process
Frequently asked questions
1. What is being done to support long-term care/retirement homes? 

All long-term care homes (LTCHs) and retirement homes (RHs) in Ottawa receive regular communications and guidance from Ottawa Public Health’s Infection Prevention and Control team. These homes are familiar with required infection prevention and control measures, COVID-19 testing guidelines and outbreak management protocols.

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is working closely with the Ministry of Long-Term Care and the Champlain COVID-19 Response Committee (CCRC) to address issues (e.g., human resources, PPE, education, etc.) in LTCH/RH. During prevention efforts and outbreak management, OPH in collaboration with the facility, will report any concerns directly to CCRC and MLTC to determine what supports can be provided immediately to the facility. OPH is in weekly contact with the Ministry of Long-Term Care which is responsible for the regulation, licensing and inspections of LTCHs.

OPH is providing LTCHs with infection prevention and control education and support and community paramedics are supporting testing and non-urgent medical care. These measures are making a difference and more partnerships are being established as assessments continue.

2. When is a COVID-19 outbreak declared and what support is provided to the long-term care/retirement home? 
Ministry of Health guidelines state that one single person with a COVID-19 positive test in a long-term care home (LTCH) or retirement home (RH) results in the declaration of an outbreak. Once an outbreak is declared, Ottawa Public Health (OPH)’s Infection Prevention and Control team is assigned to assist the home and provide support by:
  • Conducting an on-site visit  
  • Providing advice and guidance on infection prevention and control measures
  • Conducting on-going surveillance for the duration of the outbreak 
  • Supporting the home by recommending that all infection prevention and control requirements are implemented to control the outbreak
  • Offering other resources to the home

Infection prevention and control measures such as wearing proper surgical/procedural masks at all times while at work, active screening, and separating people who may have the COVID-19 virus and people who have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, continue to be the most effective way to decrease the transmission of COVID-19 in these homes.

3. Who is tested when a long-term care/retirement home has a COVID-19 outbreak? 

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) provides guidance on which residents, staff and close contacts require testing in a long-term care home (LTCH) or retirement home (RH) and helps with completing these tests.

In the event that a resident living in a long-term care or retirement home develops symptoms compatible with COVID-19, residents who do not exhibit symptoms but who are living in the same room are tested immediately along with the person with symptoms. OPH may also, based on a risk assessment, identify other staff, visitors or residents who should be tested for COVID-19.

In the event that a person tests positive for the COVID-19 virus, all staff in the entire home and all residents in the home will be tested.

4. Are residents separated when a long-term care/retirement home has an outbreak? 

Homes with an outbreak actively work on separating (cohorting) residents with and without symptoms. Residents with symptoms (including mild respiratory and/or atypical symptoms) are isolated and tested for COVID-19. Residents who test positive for COVID-19 must remain in isolation under Droplet and Contact Precautions. Where possible, these residents should be isolated in a single room or alternative accommodations within the home (e.g, to respite or palliative care beds/rooms or other rooms as appropriate) and grouped according to their status.

5a. Should I consider removing my loved one/family member from their long-term care/retirement home? (See FAQ 5b for retirement home)

Content being updated.

5b. Should I consider removing my loved one/family member from their retirement home?

Retirement home residents who wish to go outside the home (e.g., absences with friends or family, shopping, medical appointments, etc.) are permitted to do so if the following requirements are met:

  • The retirement home must not be currently in a COVID-19 outbreak
    • In the event that a home allows absences but enters into an outbreak, all new absences must end. Homes must establish compliance with all Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) Directives for homes in outbreak and follow directions from the local public health unit.
  • The resident must pass active screening every time they reenter the home. If a resident does not pass screening, the home will follow existing isolation policies
  • The resident must wear a face covering/mask while outside the home and respect physical distancing
    • The resident is responsible for supplying a face covering/mask while they are on absences. The home may, at its discretion, opt to supply face covering/masks for absences
  • Education on all required protocols for short absences will be provided by the home
  • For 14 days following their return to the home from an absence that includes an overnight stay, a resident must:
    • Pass active screening upon return to the home
    • Not receive indoor visitors
    • Be monitored for symptoms
    • Avoid using common areas; however, if a common area cannot be avoided, the resident must use a face covering/mask
    • Limit contact with other residents
    • Not participate in group activities
    • Wash their hands often (using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer)
    • Adhere to respiratory etiquette and
    • Follow appropriate physical distancing guidelines
  • Residents who are following the 14-day period of enhanced precautions may leave the home for non-overnight absences (e.g., to buy groceries or other essentials). Doing so will not reset the 14-day time period. However, an overnight stay during the 14-day period will reset the 14-day time period
There are guidelines for self-isolation on the OPH website.
6. When is an outbreak declared over in a long-term care/retirement home and what type of guidance is provided to those institutions going forward?

In collaboration with the local public health unit, the outbreak may be declared over when no additional residents or staff test positive for the COVID-19 virus after 14 days (maximum incubation period) from the latest of:

  • Date of isolation of the last resident case or
  • Date of illness onset of the last resident case or
  • Date of last shift at work for last staff case

After an outbreak, a long-term care home (LTCH)/retirement home (RH) is recommended to continue infection prevention and control measures as advised by OPH. Such measures might include:

  • Screening of all staff, visitors and residents in accordance with the Ministry of Health Screening Tool
  • Physical distancing
  • Universal masking of all staff at all times
  • Increased cleaning and disinfection of high touch areas
  • Modifying or cancelling communal activities
  • Biweekly Covid-19 testing of staff
7. What precautions are being taken to protect residents of long-term care homes?

The following precautions and procedures are currently in place during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Active screening

  • Active screening of all staff and visitors twice daily.
  • Active screening of all residents at least twice daily.

Staff masking

  • In all long-term care homes, regardless of whether the home is in an outbreak or not, all staff are required to wear surgical/procedure masks while at work.
  • When staff are on breaks, and not in contact with residents, they may remove their masks.
  • Staff not wearing masks must maintain physical distancing, of at least two metres (six feet) away from colleagues to prevent the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

Managing visitors

The aim of managing visitors is to balance the need to mitigate risks to residents, staff and visitors with the mental, physical and spiritual needs of residents for their quality of life. At minimum, visitor policies must:

  • Be informed by the ongoing COVID-19 situation in the community and the home and be flexible to be reassessed as circumstances change.
  • Include education about physical distancing, respiratory etiquette, hand hygiene, infection prevention and control practices (IPAC) and proper use of personal protective equipment, including masks.
  • Include a process for communicating with residents, families and visitors about policies and procedures including those related to the gradual resumption of visits.
  • Include a process for gradual resumption of general visitors that stipulates that:
    • Visits should be pre-arranged
    • Residents are permitted up to a maximum of two visitors at a time
    • Visitors must only visit the resident they are intending to visit, and no other residents
    • Visitors should use a cloth mask or face covering only if the visit is outdoors. If the visit is indoors, a surgical/procedure mask must be worn at all times
    • Visitors should wear eye protection in any resident or clinical area of the facility.
    • Visits are not permitted when:
      • A resident is self-isolating or symptomatic, or
      • A home is in an outbreak

For more information, you can read the Ontario Ministry of Health’s Directive #3 for Long-Term Care Homes.

8. Where can I find outbreak information on specific long-term care/retirement home? 
The detailed summary of confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks in Ottawa, long-term care homes (LTCHs) and retirement homes (RHs), is available on the Daily COVID-19 Dashboard webpage. This detailed summary is updated daily.
9. Will residents in long-term care/retirement homes be moved to other facilities such as hotels, recreation complexes and schools?

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) and our partners continue to work together to review strategies to protect the health of residents in the City, including those in long-term care homes (LTCHs) and retirement homes (RHs). The current strategy is to provide support to the facilities directly, as opposed to moving residents to other buildings. Support to these homes is being provided through several coordinated teams and includes infection prevention and control support and education, support with separating (cohorting) residents and staff with and without symptoms and providing additional staff, specifically health care workers.

10. What is surveillance testing, and will it be expanded to include retirement homes and other congregate care settings?

Surveillance testing is the proactive COVID-19 testing of all residents and staff (those with and without symptoms) at a long-term care home (LTCH) or retirement home (RH). Surveillance testing helps Ottawa Public Health (OPH) better understand the current state of COVID-19 infections in Ottawa. The test results provide a snapshot of current infections and are used to track where the virus has spread. OPH follows up immediately with homes and individuals (staff) if there is a positive test result. 

Testing and site-visits have been completed in all 28 Ottawa LTCHs.   Retirement homes (RHs)  are also undergoing site-visits. ​OPH is working with partners to provide surveillance testing in RHs that are in a declared outbreak and require additional supports. The most important way to stop the transmission of COVID-19 and deaths due to COVID-19 in LTCHs is strict adherence to Infection Prevention and Control measures, which includes ensuring all healthcare workers are wearing masks at all times, physical distancing and continuous active screening.

Other congregate settings that have undergone surveillance testing include Ottawa’s emergency child care centres. In total to date 76 staff have been tested for COVID-19 to date.

It is important to note that a negative test does not mean that an individual is not infected, since the person could be incubating the infection. Tests completed early in an infection may produce a false negative result.

11. When can I go visit my loved one living in a long-term care home?

The province has gradually reopened long-term care homes (LTCH) to visitors. Baseline requirements must be met prior to being able to accept any visitors. Below is an outline of the requirements for LTCH and visitors during Phase 1 from the Ministry of Long-Term Care – Resuming Visits in Long-Term Care Homes guidance.

  • The long-term care home must not be currently in outbreak.
  • In the event that a home has relaxed visitor restrictions and enters into an outbreak, all non-essential visitations must end. Homes must establish compliance with all Ontario Ministry of Health directives for homes in outbreak and follow directions from the local public health unit.
  • The home has developed procedures for the resumption of visits and a process for communicating these procedures with residents, families, visitors and staff, including but not limited to infection prevention and control (IPAC), scheduling and any setting-specific policies.
    • The process must include sharing an information package with visitors on IPAC, masks and other operational procedures such as limiting movement around the home, if applicable, and ensuring visitors’ agreement to comply. Home materials must include an approach to dealing with non-adherence to home policies and procedures, including the discontinuation of visits.
    • Protocols must be in place to maintain the highest of IPAC standards prior to, during and after visits.
    • Each home should create and maintain a list of visitors with the time and date of each visit as well as contact information. The list will be available for relevant/appropriate staff members to access.

Visitor requirements

Prior to each visit, the visitor must:

  • Pass an active screening questionnaire administered by home staff
  • Attest to home staff that they have tested negative for COVID-19 within the previous two weeks and subsequently not tested positive. The home is not responsible for providing the testing.
  • Comply with long-term care home infection, prevention and control (IPAC) protocols, including proper use of face or surgical/procedural masks.
    • Visitors should use a mask/face covering if the visit is outdoors. If the visit is indoors, a surgical/procedure mask must be worn at all times.
    • Essential Visitors will be provided eye protection (such as a face shield or goggles) which should be worn in any resident or clinical area of the facility.
    • Visitors are responsible for bringing their own mask/face covering for outdoor visits. The home is responsible for supplying surgical/procedure masks to indoor visitors and to outdoor visitors who do not have a face covering.
      • Homes should avoid accessing the provincial pandemic stockpile for this purpose.
    • Any non-adherence to these rules will be the basis for discontinuation of visits.

Outdoor and indoor visit

  • Up to two visitors a time are allowed. A visitor is defined as any family member, close friend or neighbor.
  • Scheduling of visits is required.
  • Homes should establish practices that:
    1. Provide meaningful and equitable access to visits for all residents; and
    2. Consider the staffing and space capacity available to the home to maintain safety of residents, staff and visitors.
  • Homes will have discretion in scheduling and must take into account the directives in place at the time and whether the visitor is an essential caregiver (e.g. supports with feeding etc.)
  • Homes may regulate the number of visitors to the home at any one time.

12. When can I go visit my loved one living in a retirement home?

Reopening retirement home guidance currently permits outdoor visiting and indoor visiting in designated areas or resident suites (if appropriate physical distancing can be maintained).

The number of visitors per resident, per day, is to be determined by the home, provided that current guidance on physical distancing (two metres /six feet or more) can be accommodated.

For outdoor visits, the visitor may bring an outdoor/lawn chair, or one may be provided by the retirement home. Staff will clean and disinfect the visiting area after each visit.

Scheduling of visits is required. This will allow for appropriate physical distancing and staffing coverage.

Visits can be time limited to allow the home to accommodate all residents. Homes should consider the needs of residents in prioritizing visits. A sufficient block of time should be made available by homes to allow for at least one meaningful weekly visit per resident at a minimum.

Contact Information

Provincial Vaccine Information Line

  • 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • 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

Ottawa Public Health COVID-19 Telephone Line

  • Monday to Friday, from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm
  • Weekends, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
  • Translation is available in multiple languages
  • Telephone: 613-580-6744 follow the prompts to the COVID-19 telephone line
  • TTY: 613-580-9656

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 9-1-1.

See someone not respecting COVID-19 rules?

How to access help during COVID-19

  • 211 Ontario can help you find financial and social support during COVID-19
  • Telephone: 2-1-1

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