Close Contacts

COVID-19 is spread through close and prolonged contact with a person transmitting the COVID-19 virus. A close contact is someone who had a prolonged exposure in close proximity (within 2 metres) to a person diagnosed with COVID-19. Contact should be considered from the 2 days (48 hours) before the start of the person’s symptoms until the persons infection is deemed to be resolved, which takes a minimum of 10 days since the onset of symptoms or their positive test. If the person never had symptoms, contact should be considered for up to 7 days before the person was tested until the person no longer needs to isolate.

Hamilton Public Health Services identifies close contacts through a detailed review of factors such as the individual’s symptoms, COVID-19 vaccination status, where they have been, and who they have interacted with. There are a variety of situations in which you may be exposed to someone who has recently tested positive for COVID-19.

Below are some considerations for who might be a close contact:

Close Contact

  • You were within 2 metres of a person who is infectious.  There are different activities that increase risk in this case.  For example, face to face conversations increase the risk and the longer you spend with an infected person, the greater the risk.
  • You had multiple close encounters with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 over a 24-hour period.
  • You had close, physical contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19, such as a hug, hand shake or massage.
  • You live in the same home as someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You worked physically near (less than 2 metres of physical distance) a person who is infectious for a prolonged period of time.
  • You took lunch breaks or socialized in the break room with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 and were within 2 metres.

Not a Close Contact

  • If you consistently maintained a distance of at least 2 metres away from the individual who was diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You had a very brief, close contact while wearing a mask and/or with a barrier in place.
  • You passed by someone quickly.
  • You made a delivery to someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19 but had no contact with them (i.e., consistently stayed at least 2 metres away from them).
  • You worked the same shift as someone diagnosed with COVID-19 but never worked within 2 metres of them.
  • You attended the same store as someone diagnosed with COVID-19 but had no direct contact with them (i.e., never came within 2 metres of them).

These are general guidelines that apply to community exposures.  For exposures in vulnerable populations such as schools and congregate living centres, guidelines are adapted to protect those at higher risk.  Information related to schools.

Not sure if you’re a close contact? Contact Hamilton Public Health Services at 905-974-9848.

If you have been identified as a close contact by public health or someone in your life who has tested positive, it is very important that you take the following steps to stop the spread of COVID-19:

If you are identified as a close contactand are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated:

  • Get tested immediately, even if you are partially vaccinated, to determine if you might be infected. 
  • Stay home and quarantine for 10 days after your last contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Only leave the house to get tested. Book an appointment to get tested.
    • Do not take public transit or use ride sharing when you go for testing because you are possibly infectious.
    • You need to wear a mask that covers your nose, mouth and chin.
    • If someone else is driving, you need to sit in the back seat by yourself on the passenger side with car windows down to increase airflow and lower the driver’s exposure risk.
  • Monitor yourself for symptoms of COVID-19
  • If you do not have any COVID-19 symptoms, you should be tested on day 7 of your quarantine period. Book an appointment to get tested.
  • Get tested immediately if you develop symptoms of COVID-19, even if you have been tested previously.  An early negative result may become positive later.
  • All household members who are unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated must stay home and only leave for essential reasons until a negative test has been confirmed.
  • If you get tested, you must remain in quarantine while you wait for your results. Even if your test result is negative you must continue to quarantine for the full 10 days.

If you are identified as a close contact and are fully vaccinated and/or previously tested positive for COVID-19(within the last 90 days):

  • An individual is considered fully vaccinated when 14 or more days have passed since their second COVID-19 vaccination. If fewer than 14 days have passed since the second dose, an individual is not considered fully vaccinated.
  • Get tested immediately, even if you are fully vaccinated, to determine if you might be infected. You should be retested on day 7 after your exposure to the positive case.
  • Household members of symptomatic fully vaccinated individuals/previously positive close contacts should isolate until the individual who has been identified as a fully vaccinated/previously positive close contact has a negative test result.
  • Individuals who are fully vaccinated must still quarantine and be tested immediately if they have symptoms of COVID-19.  For information about symptoms and testing.
  • For the next 10 days you should self-monitor for symptoms, follow public health measures such as wearing a mask outside of your house and self-isolate and get tested if you develop any symptoms.
  • Fully vaccinated contacts who are in certain congregate settings such as retirement homes or long-term care facilities cannot be excluded from quarantine if they are a close contact.
  • If your test is positive you must self-isolate for 10 days.

Flow chart - what to do if you’ve been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 (for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals)

Note: fully immunized close contacts need to avoid non-essential visits to settings with vulnerable populations including schools and daycares.

Monitoring symptoms

If you are experiencing severe symptoms (shortness of breath, chest pain), call 911 right away. If you had COVID-19 symptoms and they are worsening but not severe, contact your health care provider or Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000 for further guidance.

Examples of close contact that could occur within a workplace:

Examples of close contact within a school environment:

Graphic identifying who is and is not a close contact in school