Close Contacts

In response to the evolving situation related to the COVID-19 Omicron variant of concern, and the rapid rise in related cases, management of confirmed and suspected cases has been adapted for all Public Health Units in Ontario. Case management and Contact tracing efforts by public health units are focused on specific highest risk settings where the person-to-person risk of transmission is high in a vulnerable population.  As a result, individuals who have COVID-19 are being asked to notify any of their close contacts that are not in a highest risk setting.  If someone you have been in contact with notifies you that you are a close contact, please follow the instructions provided to you related to isolation. 

Highest risk settings include:

  • Hospitals and complex continuing care facilities or acute care facilities
  • Congregate settings such as long-term care homes, retirement homes, shelters, supportive housing, group homes, hospices, temporary foreign worker housing and correctional institutions.
  • First Nations, Inuit, Métis communities

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. Any individual that lives in the same household as an individual that has COVID-19 is considered a close contact.

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 or someone in your life has tested positive, it is very important that you take the following steps to stop the spread of COVID-19:

Read what to do if you have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and do not live, work, or volunteer in highest risk settings 

Read what to do if you’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and work in a highest risk setting 

If you’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and live in a highest-risk setting, you should self-isolate regardless of vaccination status.

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