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Community Guidance on Self-Isolation

This information outlines guidance that applies to the general community, and school and childcare settings. The Ministry of Health provides guidance for people with symptoms of COVID-19, individuals who test positive, household members and close contacts.

Take the COVID-19 self assessment if you were exposed to COVID-19, have symptoms or for screening for recommendations on what to do next.

Self-isolation guidance differs for those who work in highest risk settings. If you are symptomatic, test positive for COVID-19, or are a close contact, refer to your employer on self-isolation guidance and returning to work.

Who needs to self-isolate

Self-isolate if you:

  • Have COVID-19 symptoms (regardless if you tested positive for COVID-19 or not). Self-isolate even if you are up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccines, or were positive for COVID-19 in the past.
  • Are required to do so after international travel based on federal requirements

Some individuals with COVID-19 symptoms are eligible for COVID-19 treatments. Learn about COVID-19 treatments, who is eligible and how to get treatment.

How long to self-isolate

  • If you have COVID-19 symptoms (regardless of a COVID-19 test result)

    Stay home to help prevent infection from spreading. Self-isolate until:

    • You have no fever (without the use of fever reducing medication)
    • Your other symptoms are improving for 24 hours (or 48 hours if you have gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, diarrhea or vomiting)

    Some people can still spread the virus to others even after ending their self-isolation period as per above. For this reason, Niagara Region Public Health encourages (but does not require) individuals to have two negative COVID-19 rapid tests (ideally 24 hours apart) before leaving isolation. Find free rapid tests near you. If it has been 10 days from when your symptoms began and you continue to test positive on these tests but your symptoms have improved, you may leave isolation.

  • After your self-isolation period ends
    • Wear a mask when out in public (including in schools and child care) for 10 days from when your symptoms started. Learn about masks.
      • Avoid non-essential activities that would require you to remove your mask (for example, dining out, playing wind instruments, playing high contact sports where masks can't safely be worn)
    • Avoid visiting anyone who is immunocompromised or at higher risk of illness (for example, seniors) for 10 days from when your symptoms started
    • Avoid non-essential visits to highest risk settings such as hospitals and long-term care homes for 10 days from when your symptoms started
  • If you live in a highest-risk setting, are immunocompromised or hospitalized

    If you reside in a highest-risk setting, are hospitalized for COVID-19 related illness or are immunocompromised, self-isolate for at least 10 days from the date of test or from when symptoms began (whichever is earlier / applicable).

    If you are someone with severe illness (requiring intensive care) self-isolate for at least 20 days (or at discretion of hospital infection prevention and control) from the date of test or from when symptoms began (whichever is earlier / applicable)

    Symptoms also need to be improving before leaving isolation.

Information for close contacts

A close contact is anyone who was less than two metres away from a COVID-19 positive individual or person with symptoms even for short periods of time. The interaction would have occurred in the 48 hours before their symptoms began or before they received their positive test result (if no symptoms) and until they started self-isolating.

Whether you are a household or a non-household close contact, for a total of 10 days after your last exposure to the COVID-19 positive case or individual with COVID-19 symptoms:

  • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. If you begin to develop symptoms, self-isolate immediately and follow self-isolation guidance.
  • Wear a mask when out in public (including in schools and child care)
    • Avoid non-essential activities that would require you to remove your mask (for example, dining out, playing wind instruments, playing high contact sports where masks can't safely be worn)
  • Avoid visiting anyone who is immunocompromised or at higher risk of illness (for example, seniors)
  • Avoid non-essential visits to highest risk settings such as hospitals and long-term care homes. If the visit cannot be avoided, wear a medical mask, maintain physical distancing and let the highest risk setting know about your recent exposure.

In addition, Niagara Region Public Health encourages close contacts to test themselves using a rapid antigen test before going to a public space (for example, work, school, shopping centres) for 10 days after their last exposure to the COVID-19 positive case or individual with COVID-19 symptoms.

If you test positive but do not have any symptoms, it is encouraged for you to isolate until you have two negative COVID-19 rapid tests (ideally 24 hours apart). This is to increase confidence that you will not spread the virus to others. If you continue to test positive 10 days after your first positive test but still do not have any symptoms, you may leave isolation.

Highest risk settings

Highest risk settings include:

  • Acute care settings such as hospitals, including complex continuing care facilities and paramedic services
  • Congregate living settings, including long-term care, retirement homes, First Nation elder care lodges, group homes, shelters, hospices and correctional institutions
  • Employer-provided living settings of International Agricultural Workers
  • Home and community care workers
  • Provincial demonstration schools and hospital schools

All other settings are considered non-highest risk.

Next steps

  • Monitor your health
    If you need medical attention, call Health Connect Ontario at 811 or your primary care provider, and tell them that you have tested positive for COVID-19.

    If you need urgent medical attention, call 911 and tell them that you have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Think about where you have been
    In the community, it is the responsibility of the individual with COVID-19 symptoms or COVID-19 positive test to determine who their close contacts are and to notify them of their potential exposure.

    A close contact is anyone who was less than two metres away from a COVID-19 positive individual or person with symptoms even for short periods of time. The interaction would have occurred in the 48 hours before their symptoms began or before they received their positive test result (if no symptoms) and until they started self-isolating.

How to self-isolate

  • For everyone who needs to self isolate
    • Stay home and do not attend work, school, child care, or other public places
      • Do not leave home unless it is a medical emergency or you need to get a clinical assessment or test
    • If you must leave home, travel in a private vehicle if possible. If this is not possible, wear a medical mask, keep distance from others in the vehicle (for example, sit in the backseat), and if possible and weather permitting, open the windows to increase air exchange in the vehicle.
    • While self-isolating at home, stay in a separate room away from other people and use a separate bathroom if possible.
      • If in the same room as other household members, wear a well-fitting mask (medical mask if available) and improve ventilation (for example, open windows if possible). Household members should also wear a mask when in the same room.
      • Household caregivers should refer to Public Health Ontario's fact sheet on self-isolation guide for caregivers, family members and close contacts. Anyone who is at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19 (for example, immunocompromised and / or elderly) should avoid caring for or coming in close contact with a case.
    • You may leave your home for independent outdoor exercise (or with a caregiver, as appropriate), but should maintain physical distance of at least two metres from others at all times. Avoid outdoor fitness classes or personal training sessions.
      • If self-isolating in an apartment, condo or hotel, wear a mask in the building common areas when leaving the property
  • Other actions you can take to prevent infection from spreading
    • Take steps to increase ventilation
      • Open windows periodically as weather permits
      • Run the forced air heating / ventilation system continuously
      • Use a higher MERV rating filter, and try and maintain a humidity of 30-50 per cent.
    • Clean your hands often
    • Practise regular cleaning and disinfecting
    • Do not share objects or items with other household members
    • Do not have visitors unless it's essential, such as health care providers. If arranging for delivery of groceries and other necessities, have the person leave them at the door so that you don't put them at risk.
  • Coping with self-isolation
    It's normal to feel sad, stressed, confused, scared or anxious during times of crisis. Try to focus on what you can control, and allow your emotions to come and go like a wave. Use these tips to help cope with self-isolation.
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