Have COVID-19 Symptoms or Tested Positive for COVID-19

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 (including complex continuing care facilities and paramedic services), home and community care workers and congregate living settings (with medically and socially vulnerable individuals), including Long-Term Care, retirement homes, First Nation elder care lodges, group homes, shelters, hospices, correctional institutions, Provincial Demonstration Schools and hospital schools.

What to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms - English | French

If you have COVID-19/COVID-19 symptoms, you must self-isolate immediately beginning the day your symptoms start or the day of your test (if you have no symptoms). To find out how long you need to isolate, review the chart below.

Isolation Period Population
5 days after the date symptoms started or a PCR or RAT test was taken (whichever is earlier/applicable).

Fully vaccinated individuals

Children under the age of 12
10 days after the date symptoms started or a PCR or RAT test was taken (whichever is earlier/applicable)

Individuals age 12+ who are not fully vaccinated
Immunocompromised (receiving cancer chemotherapy, untreated HIV infection with CD4 T lymphocyte count 20 mg/day for more than 14 days and taking other immune suppressive medications)
Hospitalized for COVID-19 related illness (or at discretion of hospital)

Living in a highest-risk setting such as a Long-Term Care home
20 days after the date symptoms started or a PCR or RAT test was taken (whichever is earlier/applicable) Severe illness (requiring ICU level of care or at discretion of hospital)
  • Read about how to self-isolate
  • If self-isolation is complete after 5 days (for those who tested positive, those who had symptoms, and their household members), additional precautions are needed due to risk of infection as outlined below:
  • For a total of 10 days (or 20 days for immunocompromised individuals) after the start of symptoms (or the date the test was taken, whichever is earlier/applicable), individuals and their household members must:
    • Wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings
      • Individuals should wear a mask as much as possible in public settings. Reasonable exceptions would include temporary removal for essential activities like eating (e.g., when eating in shared space at school/work while maintaining as much distancing from others as possible)
      • Individuals can participate in activities where you can wear a mask, but should avoid activities where mask removal would be necessary (e.g., dining out)
      • Individuals who are exempt from masking (e.g., children under two years of age, etc.) may return to public settings without masking
    • Not visit anyone who is immunocompromised or at higher risk of illness (i.e., seniors)
    • Not visit or attend work in any highest risk settings such as hospitals and Long-Term Care homes
  • In addition, household members of those who tested positive/had COVID-19 symptoms should self-monitor for symptoms and self-isolate if they develop any symptoms of COVID-19

Your household members are considered close contacts and may need to self-isolate. Read instructions for close contacts

  • For household members who do not develop symptoms while in self-isolation, if any other household member develops COVID-19 symptoms, they should extend their self-isolation until the last symptomatic (or COVID-19 positive) person has finished their self-isolation period. The initial COVID-19 positive case/individual with symptoms of COVID-19 does not have to extend their self-isolation period based on other household members becoming ill.

If a household member develops any symptoms, they should follow the instructions above.

All individuals who test positive for COVID-19 or have COVID-19 symptoms should notify close contacts of their exposure. To find out who is considered a close contact and what they should do, follow these instructions.

  • It is important to let employers know that you have tested positive if you were at work during the period of time that you may have been able to spread COVID-19 to others.  This is 48 hours before you had symptoms or 48 hours before you were tested if you do not have symptoms. 
  • You may need to follow additional policies in your workplace.
  • Workers who tested positive or who had COVID-19 symptoms are not required to provide proof of a negative test result or a positive serological test result to their employers in order to return to work. They should follow occupational health and public health guidelines on return to work.
  • Test-based clearance for return to work for those who had COVID-19/had COVID-19 symptoms may be considered for early return to work in highest-risk settings during critical work shortages. Read about rapid antigen testing if you have symptoms.

You do not need a test to show you have recovered from COVID-19 or to end your isolation.  Re-testing is not recommended because you may still test positive for several weeks even though you are no longer infectious.

A negative test, doctor’s note, or clearance letter is not a recommended requirement for you to return to work and Hamilton Public Health Services does not provide return-to-work letters.

In general, you can return to work, school, and your everyday activities when you finish your self-isolation period (as outlined above), as long as you do not have a fever and your symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours (48 hours if you have gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea). You should continue to practise prevention measures, including physical distancing, wearing a well-fitted mask, and washing your hands.

If you work in a high-risk setting, you cannot return to work for 10 days, even if you only have to isolate for 5 days.

Call the Ministry COVID-19 Testing and Isolation Information Line at: 1-888-777-0730 from 8 am to 6 pm daily.

  • People who test positive on PCR or rapid molecular tests may be contacted by public health or the provincial case and contact management team
  • You may receive either a text message, a call, or both in some cases.
  • If you receive a text message from Hamilton Public Health Services or the Ontario Ministry of Health, please do not delete it.  It is not a scam.  Below is how the text message will look when you receive it.
  • The text message may include one of the following:
    • A secure link to complete a personal assessment form. The form is voluntary and will take about 10 minutes to complete. All information collected through the tool is kept confidential and protected by Ontario’s health laws. It will only be used for public health purposes. After you complete the form, you may receive a call to confirm the information you submitted.
    • A text with a link to instructions on how long you and your household members need to self-isolate and what you need to do to help prevent further virus spread.
  • You can opt out by texting STOP. Please do not reply to these text messages as your message will not be received.

Where and when to seek out medical help for COVID-19

Otherwise healthy adults and children who are not at higher risk can self-isolate, and will not need to seek medical care.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you have several options for care:

Have a family doctor

  • If you are at higher-risk* and have symptoms and/or you have tested positive on a rapid antigen test (RAT) or PCR test, you should contact your family doctor regarding care.
  • Contact your doctor if you are unsure what care you required.
  • Higher-risk individuals* who have symptoms should get tested within one to two days of symptom onset either using a rapid antigen test (RAT) or a PCR test. Book a COVID-19 PCR test
  • Higher-risk individuals who test positive may be eligible for COVID-19 treatment
  • Screen yourself for COVID-19 antiviral treatment
  • Your doctor may prescribe antiviral treatment that can be picked up at a local pharmacy.
  • Read more about antiviral treatment
  • See above for how to manage self-care at home
  • Information from doctors on when to seek care

Higher-risk individuals are:

  • Age 70 and older
  • Age 60 and older with less than three vaccine doses
  • Age 18 and older with less than three vaccine doses and at lease one risk factor (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 or developmental disability sickle cell disease moderate or severe liver disease (e.g., Child Pugh Class B or C cirrhosis)))
  • Age 18 and older and immunocompromised (have an immune system that is weakened by a health condition or medications)
  • Age 50 and older and First Nations, Inuit or Metis who are unvaccinated
  • Pregnant and unvaccinated

Other individuals who may be at higher risk of severe outcomes

Contact your doctor before getting ill to determine if you would benefit from antiviral treatment. If you become ill, contact your doctor early in your illness rather than waiting for symptoms to worsen.

No access to a family doctor
If you have are higher risk and have symptoms but do not have access to a family doctor, screen yourself for COVID-19 antiviral treatment. If you think you may be eligible for treatment, and do not have a doctor, book a PCR test or take a rapid antigen test (RAT) at home to determine if you have COVID-19.

If you do not have a family doctor and have moderate illness or worsening symptoms, , you may be able to access virtual care online.

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