Self-Isolation

It's highly likely you're infected with COVID-19 if you have COVID-19 symptoms. Unless you're eligible for testing, no testing is required. Follow the guidelines on this page. Public Health isn't following up with positive rapid antigen results unless you're a health care worker, or live or work in a congregate setting, and have reported your positive test through our online reporting portal.

Who should self-isolate

Self-isolate if you have one of the following:

  • Start to develop COVID-19 symptoms
  • Test positive for COVID-19 on a rapid antigen OR a laboratory PCR test
  • Are living in the same household with someone that has symptoms
  • Are living in the same household with someone who has tested positive through a rapid antigen test or PCR
  • Are living in a highest risk setting and have COVID-19 symptoms, test positive, or are a close contact
  • Are a contact who is unvaccinated or partially vaccinated
  • Are a contact who has symptoms
  • Are required to do so under the Quarantine Act due to travel outside of Canada. There are some exemptions to quarantine for eligible fully vaccinated travellers. Length of self-isolation may be different for those returning from international travel. Follow federal guidelines.
  • Are directed to do so by Public Health, your health care provider or a border officer

What 'fully vaccinated' means

You're considered fully vaccinated when you have received:

  • The full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada, or any combination of such vaccines, OR
  • One or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada, followed by one dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine authorized by Health Canada, OR
  • Three doses of any COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada

You must also have received your final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days previously.

What 'highest risk setting' means

Highest risk settings include:

  • 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

Guidance may be different for individuals who live, work or volunteer in these settings.

All other settings are considered non-highest risk.

How long to self-isolate or self-monitor

If you have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive for COVID-19

  • Individuals who are fully vaccinated OR under 12 years of age

    You must self-isolate for at least five days if you have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive on either a laboratory PCR test or a rapid antigen test AND

    • You are fully vaccinated OR
    • Under 12 years of age

    The day you have symptoms or test positive is day zero. Day one is the first full day after. For example, if Jan. 1 is day zero, Jan. 6 is day five and Jan. 7 is when your self-isolation can end.

    All of your household members (regardless of their vaccination status) must self-isolate while you are self-isolating.

    If you develop COVID-19 symptoms after testing positive, your five-day isolation begins from the day your symptoms started.

    Self-isolate for at least five days from your symptom onset AND until you are free of fever for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medications), free of vomiting or diarrhea for 48 hours, AND your other symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours.

    If your self-isolation is complete after five days, regardless of vaccination status or age, for a total of 10 days from symptom onset, individuals with COVID-19 symptoms must:

    • Continue to wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings
    • Not visit anyone who is immunocompromised or at higher risk of illness
    • Not visit any highest risk settings (see "What ‘highest risk setting means" above)
  • Individuals who are immunocompromised, or age 12 or older who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated

    You must self-isolate for at least 10 days if you have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive on either a laboratory PCR test or a rapid antigen test AND

    • You are immune compromised (regardless of age) OR
    • You are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated AND
    • 12 years of age and older

    In the context of Omicron, individuals who are previously positive in the last 90 days and not fully vaccinated are not considered equivalent to fully vaccinated.

    The day you have symptoms or test positive is day zero. Day one is the first full day after. For example, if Jan. 1 is day zero, Jan.11 is day 10 and Jan.12 is when your self-isolation can end.

    All of your household members (regardless of their vaccination status) must self-isolate while you are self-isolating.

    If you develop COVID-19 symptoms after testing positive, your 10-day isolation begins from the day your symptoms started.

    Self-isolate for at least 10 days from your symptom onset AND until you are free of fever for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medications), free of vomiting or diarrhea for 48 hours AND your other symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours.

  • Individuals who live in a highest risk setting

    You should self-isolate for at least 10 days from symptom onset or a positive test if you live in a highest risk setting (see "What ‘highest risk setting means" above).

    The day of your last exposure is day zero. Day one is the first full day after. For example, if Jan. 1 is day zero, Jan. 11 is day 10 and Jan. 12 is when your self-isolation can end.

    If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, your 10-day isolation begins from the day your symptoms started (day zero).

  • If you're a contact / were exposed

    • Household members

      All household members of the individual with COVID-19 symptoms, regardless of vaccination status, should self-isolate while the individual with COVID-19 symptoms is isolating, even if they don't have any symptoms. See above for length of isolation.

      If your self-isolation is complete after five days, regardless of vaccination status or age, for a total of 10 days from the last exposure to the COVID-19 case, household members must:

      • Continue to wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings
      • Not visit anyone who is immunocompromised or at higher risk of illness
      • Not visit any highest risk settings (see "What ‘highest risk setting means" above)
    • Contacts who live in a highest risk setting

      You should self-isolate for 10 days from your last exposure, regardless of vaccination status, if you live in a highest risk setting (see What "highest risk setting means" above).

      The day of your last exposure is day zero. Day one is the first full day after. For example, if Jan. 1 is day zero, Jan. 11 is day 10 and Jan. 12 is when your self-isolation can end.

      If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, your 10-day isolation begins from the day your symptoms started (day zero).

    • Contacts who work or volunteer in highest risk settings

      Contacts who work or volunteer in highest risk settings (see "What ‘highest risk setting means" above) are to self-monitor for symptoms 10 days from their last exposure to the infected individual and are not to visit or go into the highest risk setting or see individuals in the highest risk setting unless there is a critical staffing shortage. If leaving home, they should maintain masking, physical distancing and all other public health measures.

      Follow your employer's occupational health and safety guidance.

    • Non-household contacts

      A contact is anyone who was less than two metres away even for shorter periods of time in the 48 hours before your symptoms began or a positive test result of another individual - whichever came first.

      The following guidance does not apply to individuals who live, work or volunteer in a highest risk setting (see "What "highest risk setting means" above).

      Children in contact with someone in a school or child care setting

      Follow Niagara specific guidance in the "frequently asked questions about school and child care" section of COVID-19 symptoms.

      Fully vaccinated non-household contacts

      Non-household contacts who are fully vaccinated and have no symptoms are to self-monitor for 10 days. Self-monitoring is checking yourself for COVID-19 symptoms every day. They should NOT visit any highest risk settings or individuals who may be at higher risk for illness for 10 days from their last exposure to the infected individual. If leaving home, they should maintain masking, physical distancing and all other public health measures.

      Immune compromised, 12 years and older and unvaccinated or partially vaccinated non-household contacts

      Non-household contacts who are immune compromised, or 12 years and older and unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, are to self-isolate immediately for 10 days since their last exposure to an infected individual. They should monitor for symptoms and if they develop symptoms, continue to self-isolate.

      Non-household contacts under 12 years of age

      Non-household contacts who are under 12 years of age and unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, are to self-isolate immediately for five days since their last exposure to an infected individual. They should monitor for symptoms for 10 days and if they develop symptoms, continue to self-isolate.

    • Management of household members

      The following guidance does not apply to individuals who live in a highest risk setting.

      • If additional household members of a CASE develop COVID-19 symptoms

        If additional household members develop COVID-19 symptoms, they should follow isolation directions in the "If you have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive for COVID-19" section. If they're eligible for testing, they should seek testing.

        The initial household member(s) with symptoms of COVID-19 don't have to extend their self-isolation period based on other household members becoming ill.

      • If household members of a CASE stay well

        Household members who are still well and have not developed COVID-19 symptoms should extend their self-isolation until the last symptomatic person has finished their self-isolation period.

      • If household members of a CONTACT develop symptoms

        If anyone else in the household develops symptoms after the case, then all other asymptomatic household contacts should extend their self-isolation until the newly symptomatic person has finished their self-isolation period.

      How to self-isolate

      For everyone who needs to self-isolate

      • Stay at home and indoors. Don't go to school, work or any public areas. When going outside for fresh air, stay away from other people. Use your own backyard or balcony, avoid crowded trails or walk when no one is around. Don't walk with people outside your household. Wear a mask. Avoid other people by taking the stairs instead of the elevator when leaving your building and leave a distance more than two metres from other people while you're outside.
      • Figure out how you and your household members will isolate. Even though all household members (regardless of their vaccination status) must self-isolate while the infected individual is self-isolating, do your best to stay separate. A large proportion of household members may become sick if there's a COVID-19 infection in the home.
        • Individuals who are infected should self-isolate away from household members who do not have symptoms or test negative
        • If the infected individuals can't stay separate (for example, if you're leaving your bedroom to use the bathroom or go to the balcony or backyard), wear a medical mask or N95 / KN95 respirator if you have one, otherwise wear a high quality three layer cloth mask
      • If isolating in the same building as others are living, 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.
      • Practise regular cleaning and disinfecting
      • Clean your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds or hand sanitize and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
      • Don't share tablets, gaming devices, headsets, towels, etc. with other household members
      • Don't use public transportation, rideshare companies or taxis
      • Cancel non-urgent appointments
      • If you must go out for a medical appointment or urgent care, drive by yourself. If you need someone to drive you, sit in the back seat, wear a mask and roll down your window. Your driver should wear a mask as well.
      • Don't 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.

      Additional self-isolation guidance for household member(s) who have COVID-19 symptoms or tested positive

      Persons who are infected can isolate together. If possible, they should self-isolate in a separate part of the house with a separate bathroom and bedroom.

      • Have a caregiver bring meals and supplies to the room and drop off outside the door
      • When leaving your bedroom to use the bathroom or go outside, wear a medical mask or N95 / KN95 respirator if you have one, otherwise wear a high quality three layer cloth mask
      • Keep a physical distance of two metres from other household members

      Learn how to care for a child who needs to self-isolate.

      What you should do next

      • Notify your workplace

        You must tell your employer if you:

        • Attended the workplace in the 48 hours before you developed symptoms, or
        • Have no symptoms, but attended the workplace in the 48 hours before your positive test result
        • Were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19
      • Monitor your health

        If you need medical attention, call Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000 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

        Can you think of anyone that you had contact with who would be considered a contact before you were infected?

        A contact is anyone who was less than two metres away even for shorter periods of time in the 48 hours before you developed symptoms. If you don't have symptoms, consider yourself infectious for 48 hours before your test.

        Use calendars, pictures taken, banking statements, GPS records and credit card receipts to remember where you might have been.

      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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