Protect Yourself and Others

"Learning to live with COVID" means that we all need to continue being mindful that COVID-19 is still present in our community, even as public health measures are changing. There is still a risk of getting COVID-19 and having severe outcomes.

Risk Assessment

Individuals should assess their own personal level of risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19, and it is important that we all be mindful that there are community members who remain at higher risk for serious outcomes. Check local indicators for COVID-19 transmission in Hamilton

A person with any of the medical conditions listed below is more likely to get very sick with COVID-19, especially if they are not fully vaccinated. A third/booster dose is recommended to further reduce risk of severe outcomes.

  • Older age (risk increases for individuals above age 50).
  • Unvaccinated individuals, especially those above age 50
  • Certain cancers
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Chronic lung diseases (e.g., COPD)
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease (e.g., heart failure)
  • Dementia
  • Immune-compromised
  • Pregnancy

The list above does not include all possible conditions that could make you at higher risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19. Learn if you are eligible for COVID-19 treatment. When making decisions about which activities to participate in, each individual needs to assess their own risk, as well as of those around them.

Public Health Measures

You can protect yourself and others by following these steps:

  • Stay home if you have any COVID-19 symptoms
  • Wear a face covering/mask, if appropriate/required
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or sneeze/cough into your upper sleeve or elbow
  • Take a test if you have symptoms compatible with COVID-19
  • Gather outdoors rather than indoors
  • Do activities when it is less busy
  • When using shared transportation such as a taxi or car share, lower risk by sitting in the back seat, wearing a mask and opening the window, as weather allows.
  • Minimize your risk in other settings by avoiding closed spaces with poor ventilation and crowded places with many people.

Prevent COVID-19 spread when gathering with others: 

  • Do not get together with others if you are feeling unwell, have any COVID-19 symptoms, or have been exposed to a person with COVID-19.
  • Gatherings are safer outdoors than indoors.
  • The fewer people who gather, the lower the risk of COVID-19.
  • Clean your hands thoroughly and regularly.
  • Open windows to increase ventilation if safe and feasible.
  • Keep the length of the gathering short.
  •  Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations by receiving all recommended doses. Know what COVID-19 vaccines you are eligible to receive. Get vaccinated as soon as you are eligible.
  • The best protection against serious illness, hospitalization, death and long-term impacts from COVID-19 is vaccination.
  • Booster doses are essential to lower the risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19.
  • To get a booster/third dose, check clinic locations
  • To maximize protection against COVID-19, vaccination guidance will change as the epidemiology and characteristics of circulating COVID-19 variants change.
  • It is strongly recommended that you continue to wear a well-fitted three-layer mask or use a medical mask (or respirator) in all public indoor settings.
  • Masks continue to be required in certain circumstances such as in high risk settings, for recovering cases and contacts until 10 days after infection/exposure and for 14 days following international travel
  • Be kind, considerate and respectful of others’ choices.
  • Consider your personal risks and the risks to those around you when making decisions about masking in crowded indoor public spaces.
  • Be prepared that masks may be required if a new variant of concern emerges, or during the winter months when COVID and other respiratory viruses are likely to circulate again.
  • Learn more about masks

Poor ventilation in indoor spaces is linked to increased transmission of respiratory infections, particularly if the space is small. Ventilation should be improved whenever possible.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and their filters help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by reducing virus particles in the air by:

  • increasing the amount of fresh air that flows into a space (ventilation); and
  • removing virus particles from the air (filtration).

Reduce your risk in indoor spaces when ventilation is poor:

  • open windows and doors
  • use portable air cleaners
  • use ceiling fans or portable fans positioned away from people and near open windows and doors to bring in fresh air.

Reduce your individual risk in indoor crowded spaces by:

  • limiting the amount of time spent in the space
  • keeping your distance
  • wearing a well-fitted mask

Most regular household cleaners are effective against COVID-19 and its variants. While touching contaminated surfaces is not the main way COVID-19 is spread, cleaning your hands and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces can reduce your risk of getting COVID-19.

When and what to clean

  • Commonly touched surfaces should be cleaned on a regular basis and when visibly dirty. Commonly touched surfaces include door handles, countertops, tables, light switches, faucets, sinks, toilets, and electronics (e.g., cell phones, tablets, keyboards, and remote controls).  

Products to clean with

  • Cleaners break down grease and remove material from the surfaces. They should be used before disinfectants, although some products contain both cleaners and disinfectants. Read the label to know if the cleaning product will also disinfect.
  • Disinfectants have chemicals that kill most germs. Disinfectants should be used after surfaces have been cleaned. Use disinfectants that have a Drug Identification Number (DIN). This is an 8-digit number provided by Health Canada that confirms it is approved for use in Canada.

A list of cleaners and disinfectants is available on Health Canada’s website.

How to clean hard surfaces

  • Follow product labels and manufacturer instructions, including the required contact time for the product to work. For most products, the contact times are included in the fine print on the label.
  • If surfaces are dirty, clean first before applying disinfectant.
  • Apply disinfectant and allow it to dry.  
  • Don’t forget to clean electronic devices. Use disinfecting wipes that are safe for electronics. If there are no manufacturer instructions, use 70 per cent alcohol-based wipes.

How to clean soft surfaces (e.g., bedding, towels, and clothing)

Safety tips

  • Always read product labels and manufacturer instructions.
  • Do not mix chemicals.
  • Store chemicals out of reach of children and pets.

  • Wear protective gear (e.g., gloves) when using products.
  • Ensure good ventilation when using products (e.g. open windows/doors, use fans)
  • Wash hands with soap and water immediately after cleaning or disinfecting.

Visit Public Health Ontario for more information on cleaning and disinfecting.

  • Read more about what to do if you have COVID-19/COVID-19 symptoms and when to seek care
  • Antiviral treatment, including Paxlovid, is currently available for individuals at high risk of severe COVID-19+, as determined by a clinician.
  • Individuals who are at high risk of severe outcomes of COVID-19 if they become infected should speak with their health care provider (doctor) to see if Paxlovid is appropriate for them. Having this information when they are well will help them know how they can access testing and treatment if they develop symptoms of COVID-19.
  • You can be referred by a health care provider to an in-person COVID Care Clinic to be assessed to receive treatment or you can pick up antiviral treatment at a participating pharmacy  with a prescription.
  • Individuals at high-risk of severe outcomes of COVID-19 are:
    • Age 70 and older
    • Age 60 and older with fewer than three vaccine doses
    • Age 18 and older with fewer than three vaccine doses  and at least 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), pregnancy (if unvaccinated)
    • Age 18 and older and immunocompromised (have an immune system that is weakened by a health condition or medications)
    • Pregnant and unvaccinated (0 doses)
    • Age 50 and older who are First Nations, Metis and Inuit and unvaccinated

  • Other individuals who may be at higher risk