Overview

While Ontario, like other jurisdictions, has taken measures to be able to live with and manage COVID-19 for the long-term, we still need to do our part to protect ourselves and others, especially during respiratory illness season. This includes practising good hand hygiene, wearing a mask if required or if you feel it is right for you, staying home when you are sick, and staying up to date on your vaccinations.

For more information on how to protect yourself and others, read Public Health Ontario’s fact sheet.  

Vaccines and other routine immunizations

It is important to get the COVID-19 vaccine when you are eligible and stay up to date with routine immunizations. Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to protect you and those around you from infectious diseases.

Learn about vaccines and immunizations in Ontario

Learn about our COVID-19 vaccination program

Self assessments and screeners

Take the COVID-19 self-assessment to receive recommendations on what to do if you have symptoms of illness or tested positive for COVID-19. Take it for yourself or on behalf of someone else. 

Take the school and child care screener to make sure it’s safe for you or your child to go to school/child care.

Take the long-term care home screener to find out if it’s safe to visit or go to work in a long-term care home.

Stay home

If you are sick, stay home to prevent transmission to others, except to seek testing or medical care if required.

You should stay home until all of the following apply to you:

  • your symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours (or 48 hours if you had nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea)  
  • you do not have a fever
  • you do not develop any additional symptoms

When your symptoms are improving and you are no longer isolating at home, doing the following can provide extra protection against the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses circulating in the community.

For 10 days after your symptoms started:

  • wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings
  • avoid non-essential activities where you need to take off your mask (for example, dining out)
  • avoid non-essential visits to anyone who is immunocompromised or may be at higher risk of illness (for example, seniors)
  • avoid non-essential visits to highest risk settings in the community such as hospitals and long-term care homes

If you have questions related to COVID 19 testing and isolation guidelines, please call the Provincial Testing and Isolation Information line at 1-888-777-0730.

COVID-19 health advice

Symptoms of COVID-19 and its variants range from mild — like the flu and other common respiratory infections — to severe. If you feel sick, it’s important that you stay home and talk with a primary care provider or doctor if necessary.

If you have the symptoms of COVID-19 listed below, assume that you may have the virus and may be contagious.

  • Any one or more of:
    • fever or chills
    • cough
    • shortness of breath
    • decreased or loss of taste or smell
  • Any two or more of:
    • runny nose or nasal congestion
    • headache
    • extreme fatigue
    • sore throat
    • muscle aches or joint pain
    • gastrointestinal symptoms (such as vomiting or diarrhea)

If you develop severe symptoms requiring medical attention, such as shortness of breath or chest pain, call 911 and inform them that you may have COVID-19.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19

Stay home and self-isolate until all of the following apply:

  • your symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours (or 48 hours if you had nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea)
  • you do not have a fever
  • you have not developed additional symptoms

Learn how to properly self-isolate when you have COVID-19

Do not leave your home except to get tested, to visit a clinical assessment centre, or for a medical emergency. If you have severe symptoms like chest pain or difficulty breathing, go to the nearest emergency department.

You should then continue to take additional precautions for up to 10 days after your symptoms started.

If you are immunocompromised

If you are immunocompromised and test positive for COVID-19 or have not been tested, you should stay home for 10 days and follow the guidance below on COVID-19 testing and treatment, as you may benefit from available therapies to prevent severe illness.

If you test negative for COVID-19, you can stop isolating at home once your symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours (or 48 hours if you had nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea) and you do not have a fever.

You can then take additional precautions for up to 10 days after your symptoms started as extra protection against the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses circulating in the community.

If you work in a high risk setting

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have tested positive for COVID-19 and work in a high-risk setting (such as a hospital, a long-term care home, or a retirement home), you should speak with your employer and follow your workplace guidance for return to work.

Inform others of their exposure

Tell your household members and similar close contacts that you are sick and refer them to the additional precautions section below.

A close contact is anyone you were less than two metres away from for at least 15 minutes, or multiple shorter lengths of time, without measures such as masking, distancing, and/or the use of personal protective equipment in the 48 hours before your symptoms began or your positive test result, whichever came first.

Supports if you need to isolate

If you require assistance visit the COVID-19: Support for people page. It contains information on:

  • use of isolation facilities
  • referral to community supports and agencies
  • mental health supports
  • courier and delivery supports for food and necessities
  • additional resources available to support isolation through the High Priority Communities strategy

You can also contact your public health unit for more information.

Additional precautions

Taking additional precautions can add another layer of prevention against the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses circulating in the community.

If any of the following apply to you, you should take the additional precautions listed below:

  • your COVID-19 symptoms have been improving and you are no longer isolating at home
  • you were exposed to someone with COVID-19 but have no symptoms
  • you tested positive for COVID-19 but have no symptoms

For 10 days after your symptoms started, last day of exposure, or positive test result:

  • self-monitor for new or worsening symptoms
  • seek testing (if eligible) if you develop any new or different symptoms
  • wear a well-fitted mask as much as possible in all public settings, unless:
    • you are temporarily removing it for essential activities (such as when eating in shared space at school/work) while still maintaining as much distancing from others as possible
    • you are unable to mask (such as children under two years of age)
  • avoid non-essential activities where you need to take off your mask (for example, playing a wind instrument, sports that require removing your mask, dining out)
  • avoid visiting anyone who is immunocompromised or may be at higher risk of illness (for example, seniors)
  • avoid non-essential visits to highest risk settings, such as hospitals and long-term care homes

If you are immunocompromised and you test positive for COVID-19 but do not have any symptoms, you should stay home for 10 days and also follow the guidance below on COVID-19 testing and treatment as you may benefit from available therapies to prevent severe illness.

If you have been exposed to COVID-19 and work in a high risk setting (such as a hospital, a long-term care home, or a retirement home), you should speak with your employer and follow your workplace guidance for return to work.

Get more information for caregivers, household members and close contacts

COVID-19 testing and treatment

COVID-19 testing

There are two main publicly-funded tests available in Ontario to those who are eligible: rapid antigen tests and molecular tests, which include both polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and rapid molecular testing.

If you have questions related to COVID 19 testing and isolation guidelines, please call the Provincial Testing and Isolation Information line at 1-888-777-0730.

COVID-19 antiviral treatments

COVID-19 antiviral treatments are available to those with symptoms and a positive test result (PCR or rapid antigen test) who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Find out if you’re eligible for testing or antiviral treatment or talk to your health care provider to learn more.

If you are at a higher risk of severe illness due to COVID-19, you should get tested for COVID-19 and seek care as soon as possible as you may benefit from available COVID-19 treatments. These treatments must be taken immediately within the first five to seven days (depending on the treatment) of symptom onset.

Masking

Masking continues to be recommended in settings where there are individuals who are at high risk for severe outcomes and is required in long-term care homes and retirement homes.

In settings where masking is not required, wearing a mask is a personal choice. You are encouraged to wear a tight-fitting, well-constructed mask if you feel it is the right choice for you.

When to wear a mask

You should wear a mask at all times when you are outside your home and in public places (including school and child care, unless under two years of age) if you:

  • are recovering from COVID-19 symptoms and are no longer isolating for 10 days from when your symptoms started
  • have tested positive for COVID-19 and do not have symptoms for 10 days from the positive test result
  • have been identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19 symptoms and/or a positive test result for 10 days from last exposure

If you are at higher risk of severe illness

People at higher risk for severe illness are encouraged to wear a mask for greater protection, particularly if they have not received all recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, including:

  • people who are older
  • people with certain medical conditions
  • women who are pregnant or have recently given birth

Long-term care and retirement homes

The Ministry of Long-Term Care and the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility have released their own guidance that outlines masking requirements in their facilities.

Learn more about COVID-19 guidance for long-term care homes in Ontario.

Learn more about COVID-19 guidance for retirement homes in Ontario.

Businesses and organizations

Businesses and organizations may implement their own rules and policies related to masking within their settings and Ontarians should respect and follow these rules. In addition to the above general requirements and advice for masks, workers may have separate requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE) from their employer.

If you are a business or health care organization and you need PPE, you can find a company or business association that supplies personal protective equipment.

Exceptions to wearing a mask 

In settings that require you to wear a mask, there are some situations when you should not need to wear one.

You should not need medical documentation to support any of the exceptions below.

Children

Children should not have to wear a mask if they are younger than two years old.

Health and accommodations

You should not need to wear a mask if you:

Residents of care settings

Residents are not required to wear a mask in retirement homes or long-term care homes.

Temporarily taking off your mask

If you are in a setting that requires a mask, you should be able to take it off temporarily:

  • to receive services that require you to take it off (for example, at the dentist or doctor’s office)
  • to engage in an athletic or fitness activity
  • to eat or drink
  • as necessary for health and safety purposes

Learn how to choose, use and care for a mask

Learn how to make your mask fit properly