COVID-19 Testing

If you have one or more symptoms of COVID-19 or think you may have been exposed to the virus, take the Ministry of Health’s self-assessment to find out if you should get tested.

Find out what you need to do if you have symptoms or think you may have been exposed to COVID-19.

OHIP coverage is not required for COVID-19 assessment or testing.

Focus on symptoms that are new, worsening or different from an individual’s baseline health status (usual state).

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 that require immediate self-isolation and, if eligible, COVID-19 testing include:

  • fever and/or chills
  • new or worsening cough including croup
  • shortness of breath
  • a decrease or loss of taste or smell

Two or more of the following symptoms of COVID-19 require immediate self-isolation and, if eligible, COVID-19 testing include:

  • extreme fatigue, lethargy or malaise (feeling unwell, lack of energy, extreme tiredness)
  • muscle aches and joint pain(unexplained, unusual or long-lasting)
  • nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • sore throat
  • runny nose or stuffy nose
  • headache (new and persistent, unusual, unexplained, or long-lasting)

Other symptoms that may be associated with COVID-19 and should be monitored, include:

  • Abdominal pain (persistent and ongoing)
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Decreased/lack of appetite (in young children)

What to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms

If an individual has symptoms that are not compatible with COVID-19 symptom, they should stay home until symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours (or 48 hours if gastrointestinal symptoms), to limit the spread of other illnesses that the individual may have (e.g., common cold virus, Influenza, other viral respiratory or gastrointestinal illness) and to monitor for the development of additional symptoms.

People who are experiencing at least one of the symptoms of COVID-19 and have any of the following signs of severe illness:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy or drowsiness
  • Dizziness

If you are not well enough to take personal transportation, call 911.

The following infants and children should also be assessed in the emergency department:

  • Infants under 3 months of age with fever or trouble breathing or appear unwell
  • Children and infants over 3 months of age with any of the following:
     
    • Fever longer than 7 days
    • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
    • Bluish skin colour
    • Not drinking enough fluids
    • Not waking up or not interacting
    • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
    • Fever with a rash
    • Constant vomiting
    • Immune compromised with a fever

People who are unsure if they should be tested for COVID-19 should:

PCR testing for close contacts, people with symptoms, outbreaks and others

Testing Centres will only test those who fall within the Ontario provincial guidelines. This includes:

  • Individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms in one of the following groups:
  • Patient-facing health care workers
  • Staff, residents/inpatients, essential care providers, and visitors in highest risk settings: hospitals and congregate living settings, including long-term care, retirement homes, First Nation elder care lodges, group homes, shelters, hospices, correctional institutions, Provincial Demonstration Schools and hospital schools.
  • Home and community care workers
  • Household members of workers in highest risk settings and patient-facing health care workers
  • Temporary Foreign Workers in congregate living settings.
  • Patients in Emergency Departments, at the discretion of the treating clinician
  • Aged 18 and over who are immunocompromised (have an immune system that is weakened by a health condition or medications)
  • Aged 70 and over
  • Aged 60 and over with fewer than three vaccine doses
  • Aged 18 and over with fewer than three vaccine doses and at least one risk condition (e.g., a chronic medical condition such as obesity (BMI ≥30), heart disease, hypertension, congestive heart failure, chronic respiratory disease such as cystic fibrosis, moderate or severe kidney disease (eGFR <60mL/min), diabetes, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability sickle cell disease moderate or severe liver disease (e.g., Child Pugh Class B or C cirrhosis)
  • Other people at high risk of severe disease who may be eligible for treatment if they tested positive
  • Pregnant people
  • Underhoused or homeless
  • First responders, including police, paramedics and fire
  • Outpatients for whom a diagnostic test is required for clinical management, at the discretion of the treating clinician

Individuals who either have COVID-19 symptoms or do not have COVID-19 symptoms in these  groups:

  • People who are from First Nation, Inuit, and Métis communities and/or who self-identify as First Nation, Inuit, and Métis and their household members
  • Individuals travelling into First Nation, Inuit, and Métis communities for work
  • People on admission/transfer to or from hospital or congregate living setting
  • Close contacts and people in the context of confirmed or suspected outbreaks in highest risk settings, including hospitals, long-term care, retirement homes, other congregate living settings and institutions, and other settings as directed by the local public health unit
  • Individuals, and one accompanying caregiver, with written prior approval for out-of-country medical services from the General Manager, OHIP
  • Asymptomatic testing in hospital, long-term care, retirement homes and other congregate living settings and Institutions as per provincial guidance and/or Directives

* Immunocompromised individuals include:

  • Individuals receiving dialysis (hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis
  • Individuals receiving active treatment1 (e.g., chemotherapy, targeted therapies, immunotherapy) for solid tumour or hematologic malignancies
  • Recipients of solid-organ transplant and taking immunosuppressive therapy
  • Recipients of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T-cell therapy or hematopoietic stem cell transplant (within 2 years of transplantation or taking immunosuppression therapy)
  • Individuals with moderate to severe primary immunodeficiency (e.g., DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • Individuals with stage 3 or advanced untreated HIV infection and those with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
  • Individuals receiving active treatment with the following categories of immunosuppressive therapies: anti-B cell therapies (monoclonal antibodies targeting CD19, CD20 and CD22), high-dose systemic corticosteroids (refer to the Canadian Immunization Guide for suggested definition of high dose steroids), alkylating agents, antimetabolites, or tumor-necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors and other biologic agents that are significantly immunosuppressive

Individuals who cannot be tested at a Testing and Assessment Centre:

  • Individuals who are seeking clearance for travel or for entry to a private venue, event or gathering
  • Individuals who are not vaccinated and are required to complete regular screening for work purposes

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 Testing & Assessment Centre. Go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 911.

Booking an appointment

Testing is done by appointment only, no walk-ins.

  1. Book an appointment online at www.HamiltonCovidTest.ca
    New appointments will come online as they become available. If there are few or no appointments available to book online, check the website in a few hours. We release any appointments available for booking online as they are identified.
  2. If you need assistance scheduling an appointment , at the St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton Mountain Assessment Centre, call the COVID Support Service Centre operated by St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton at 289-778-1465. If you have questions about testing, contact Hamilton COVID-19 Hotline at 905-974-9848.
  3. If you have questions about testing, contact the Ministry of Health Testing and Isolation Line 1-888-777-0730. 

Cancel your appointment at St. Joe’s or Hamilton Health Sciences locations as soon as possible if you do not plan on getting tested: www.stjoes.ca/coronavirus/covid-19-test-cancellation

St. Joe’s Testing and Assessment Centre (West 5th Campus)
100 West 5th St., Hamilton, Ontario
Medical Outpatient Clinic (level 0 – accessible by door beside the Outpatient Entrance facing Fennell Ave

Hours of operation:
Monday to Friday, 4:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Access: booked appointment only

PCR testing will occur at participating pharmacies by appointment for eligible individuals as identified above.

Individuals must follow public health measures when going for a test, including wearing a mask and keeping distanced from others.

PCR self-collection testing

  • Lab-based PCR self-collection kits can be picked up at participating pharmacies by individuals. The self-collection kits will contain instructions on how to use it at home.
  • A collected specimen has a 24-hour shelf life, and it is very important that the specimen (nasal swab) is collected in the morning of the day that it is being dropped-off. Individuals will drop off the collected specimens sealed in the provided baggie at the pharmacy to be sent for processing in a lab.
  • Check the provincial online portal to get your COVID-19 test results. You will need your health card number to access these results. It may take up to 7 days for your results to appear online.

PCR self-collection testing kits are being provided to schools for use by students who have symptoms (symptomatic) and have been identified by Public Health as being high-risk contacts of a case. The self-collection kits will contain instructions on how to use them.

A collected specimen has a 24-hour shelf life, and it is very important that the specimen is collected in the morning of the day that it is being dropped-off. Students/staff will drop off the collected specimens sealed in the provided baggie at designated community locations.

Drop-off locations could include participating pharmacies.

Participation is voluntary. Eligible students, staff and families can also get tested at Testing and Assessment Centres.

Test results

  1. Sign up for the patient portal MyDovetale. MyDovetale will provide you the quickest access to your test results. You will receive a notification as soon they become available and can print the results. If you need help, email [email protected].
  2. Check the provincial online portal to get your COVID-19 test results. You will need your health card number to access these results. It may take up to 7 days for your results to appear online.
  3. If the online portal indicates your test results are unavailable, contact your family doctor to ask if they can look up your result on Clinical Connect. Due to high volumes, lab results may take 3 - 5 days and sometimes more to appear on Clinical Connect.
  4. If you are unable to register for a MyDovetale account or you would like to receive a copy of your results via secure email, email us at [email protected]. In your email, include your full name, date of birth, date of your test and daytime phone number where you can be reached. You may only request your own records. If you are requesting on behalf of others, you need to provide their daytime phone number or request they send their consent to [email protected], referencing your request. We will not discuss your results over the phone.

Do I need to have a negative follow-up test before I return to work?

  • You do not require a negative COVID-19 test result to return to work. You may return to work when your period of self-isolation ends, providing you do not have a fever and your symptoms have been improving for 24 hours (or 48 hours if you have gastrointestinal symptoms). In addition, you will need to pass the COVID-19 screening questionnaire to enter your workplace.

What does a negative COVID-19 test mean?

  • A negative COVID-19 test means you probably were not infected at the time your sample was collected.
  • It does not mean that you will not be exposed to, test positive for, or become sick with COVID-19 in the future.
  • If you have had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, you should continue isolating for the remainder of the time required as a contact of a confirmed case.  If your symptoms persist or worsen, contact your doctor. For those who had previously been instructed by public health to isolate, you should remain in isolation for the remainder of the required -isolation period.
  • If you have not had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, tested negative but still have symptoms: follow these guidelines for individuals with symptoms
  • If you have not had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, tested negative and have no symptoms: you can resume your normal activities, including returning to work.
  • If your test comes back negative, but you begin to develop COVID-19 symptoms, even if they're mild, you should isolate immediately. Read more about what to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms.

What does a positive test mean?

  • A positive COVID-19 test means you are most likely infected now and could infect others.
  • You should self-isolate and follow these instructions.
  • Public health or the provincial work force will reach out to you to provide further instructions by phone or text message if you work in a high risk setting.

 

Can the test tell me if I had COVID-19 in the past?

  • No, the test only determines if you have COVID-19 at the time the test is conducted.
  • Testing someone’s blood to see if they have antibodies for COVID-19 can tell if a person previously had COVID-19, however in Ontario, this test is only done in very limited clinical situations.

I am a health care worker

I am not a health care worker

I was tested due to an upcoming surgery/medical procedure (I do not have symptoms and was not exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19)

  • You are not required to self-isolate while waiting for your test results.
  • Please contact the physician responsible for your upcoming surgery/medical procedure for more comprehensive guidance.

Testing after travelling abroad

Travellers entering Canada, regardless of citizenship, must follow testing and quarantine requirements. There are different requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers. Information about returning to Canada from abroad from the Government of Canada  

Definitions

  • Fully immunized person - A person is defined as fully immunized 14 or more days after receiving their second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series of their first dose of a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine series that is listed for emergency use by World Health Organization or approved by Health Canada.
  • Previously positive person - A person is defined as previously positive if they were a confirmed case of COVID-19 where their initial positive result was 90 days ago or less AND they have been cleared from their initial infection.
  • Exposure - in general, this includes household, prolonged (>15 minutes cumulative) or close (<2 meters) contact, as well as other potentially high-risk contacts.

Testing for people who are not close contacts, do not have symptoms, or need tests for travel

Participating pharmacies and labs for those without COVID-19 symptoms.  

Individuals must follow public health measures when going for a test, including wearing a mask, practising physical distancing and cleaning hands frequently. If you are feeling sick on the day of your appointment, please stay home and re-schedule your test.

The Ontario Government does not cover the cost of COVID-19 testing for travel. These tests are only available at private laboratories for a fee. Please ensure you book the test required by the location you are travelling to.

Individuals who are seeking clearance for travel must get tested at a participating pharmacy or lab.

Point of care (rapid) testing

There are two kinds of point of care tests (POCT): molecular and antigen tests.

Antigen POCT
Antigen POCT tests are used for screening purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis of COVID-19 infection in people who have COVID-19 symptoms or who have had close contact with a positive COVID-19 case.

Rapid antigen testing may be used to confirm if a symptomatic individual has COVID-19, with no requirement for a confirmatory PCR or rapid molecular test. Please refer to eligibility criteria above for individuals who should seek confirmatory PCR testing after receiving a positive rapid antigen test.

For all other individuals, if you receive a positive Rapid Antigen test result, consider yourself as positive for COVID-19, immediately isolate and notify your contacts.

A negative result on a single test cannot rule out a COVID-19 infection by itself. If you have symptoms, take a second test 24 to 48 hours later, if available. If your second test taken within 48 hours of your first negative result is also negative, this most likely means you do not have COVID-19.

Molecular POCT
Molecular testing is for both diagnostic and screening purposes. A confirmatory test is not required. All POCT final positives from molecular tests must be reported to the local public health unit.

Learn more about point of care testing

Individuals who are not vaccinated and are required to complete regular screening for work purposes are not eligible for testing at Assessment Centres.  Speak with your employer to access Rapid Antigen testing.

Beginning February 9 until at least July 31, free Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) will be available at 2,300 participating grocery stores and pharmacies in Ontario. 

Who can access rapid antigen testing:

  • People with symptoms of COVID-19
  • People without symptoms of COVID-19 for screening purposes

Anyone who receives a positive result through their rapid test should consider themselves as positive for COVID-19, immediately isolate and notify contacts. Only those who individuals who meet the eligibility criteria outlined above should seek confirmatory PCR testing at a COVID-19 Testing & Assessment Centre or participating pharmacy. These persons should also notify their employer for further direction.

More information on Rapid Antigen testing

Learn what to do if you test positive for COVID-19

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Bring your Ontario health card and a list of your current medications. Wait times will depend on patient volume.
  • Yes. The COVID-19 Testing Centre can test both children and adults who fit the above eligibility criteria and have appointments. Do not bring your child if they are well and do not need to be tested.
  • All COVID-19 Testing Centres will test people of all ages (except those under three months), including children.
  • Children under three (3) months of age requiring a COVID test must go to the Emergency Department at McMaster Children's Hospital to be assessed and be tested. The Emergency Department at McMaster Children's Hospital is open 24 hours a day and is located at 1200 Main St West, Hamilton. Please do not book a COVID test online for a child under three (3) months of age. Call your healthcare provider if you have questions about testing a child under three (3) months of age for COVID-19. 

Testing Centres, visitors who are not being tested will not be allowed to join patients in the Testing Centre with the following exceptions:

  • An adult accompanying a child who is a patient, a frail older person, a person with a disability
  • Anyone acting as an interpreter

The safety of all staff, physicians, volunteers, students, patients, families and visitors remains a top priority. All patients visiting the COVID-19 Testing Centres will be required to wear the mask provided and use the hand sanitizer prior to entering the facility.

  • Yes. Your personal health information is protected under Ontario’s Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA).
  • The following information will be reported on the Ministry of Health of Ontario’s website:
    • Patient age and gender
    • Public Health Unit
    • Hospital involved
    • Type of transmission
    • Status (e.g. home isolation)

If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms 

  • Self-isolate in your home away from others while you are waiting for test results. Wear a mask, practice physical distancing, frequent handwashing and clean commonly used surfaces in the home. Read more about self-isolating.

If you are a close contact of someone who has COVID-19 Public Health has identified you as a close contact of a COVID-19 confirmed positive person identified by Public Health, whether you have or do not have COVID-19 symptoms

 

No. The Testing Centre has been established strictly to screen and assess patients for COVID-19. Notes for employment or other purposes will not be provided by physicians or other clinical staff.

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