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This page includes the latest information and guidance from Halton Region Public Health, the provincial and federal governments on COVID-19 symptoms, exposure, testing and self-isolation.

Important information about COVID-19

The Province has updated its guidance on self-isolation, symptoms, testing and what to do if you are exposed to COVID-19. To get the latest information on what you need to do to protect yourself and others please go to ontario.ca/exposed (external link).

Due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in Ontario, the Province has prioritized PCR testing for individuals in high-risk settings and specific groups. For a full list of individuals eligible for PCR testing, please visit the Ministry of Health’s Guidance document: Prioritization for Molecular Testing for COVID-19 Infection (external PDF) (page 3). Public Health has been instructed by the Province to focus on contacting individuals in high-risk congregate settings (hospitals, long-term homes, retirement homes and congregate living facilities), and health care related outbreaks where vulnerable people reside and First Nations communities.

Halton Region is currently experiencing a high volume of calls and Public Health is unable to respond to all inquiries at this time. Get up-to-date COVID-19 information on our website. Thank you for your patience and the work you are doing to protect yourself, your families and community.


What to do if you:

Symptoms of COVID-19

If you have symptoms, refer to the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Reference Document for Symptoms (external PDF) and follow instructions provided in the flowchart (page 12): “You have symptoms and are concerned you may have COVID-19. Now what?” (external PDF) You can also visit Ontario.ca/exposed (external link) and complete the COVID-19 self-assessment (external link).

Important:

Exposure to COVID-19

What to do after an exposure to COVID-19

Testing for COVID-19

There are different types of tests that are used to detect COVID-19:

  1. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests
    • PCR tests are COVID-19 tests that need to be processed in a lab.
    • Samples for PCR tests can be collected in several ways including nasopharyngeal swabs, which are collected by inserting a long, flexible swab in the nostril rotated for 5 to 10 seconds, or saliva tests.
    • PCR self-collection kits are also available for testing at home and must be returned to be processed in a lab. PCR self-collection kits may be available to you from a testing location, or through a school testing program. Learn more about PCR self-collection kits (external link) from the Ontario government.
    • The Ontario government sets the criteria for testing. Refer to the full list of who’s eligible for PCR tests (external link) from the Province.
  2. Rapid molecular tests
    • Rapid molecular tests are COVID-19 tests that are typically conducted by a health care professional or other trained individual. They can provide results in a minimum of one hour.
    • Samples for rapid molecular tests are collected by nose or throat swabs.
    • Rapid molecular tests are primarily used in rural and remote settings where access to lab-based PCR tests may be limited.
  3. Rapid antigen tests

COVID, Cold and Flu Care Clinic (CCFCC) at Kelso Lake (external link)

This clinic is for individuals who:

  • have cold, flu or COVID-like symptoms
  • need to see a doctor for an in-person assessment; and
  • do not have or cannot see their primary care provider.

Symptoms of COVID and the flu are very similar

Knowing when you should go to an Assessment Centre for a COVID test or to a COVID, Cold and Flu Care Clinic to help diagnose your symptoms will help you get the right care, in the right place.

You should go to a COVID, Cold and Flu Care Clinic if you:

have moderate cold, flu or COVID-like symptoms (ex. new or worsening cough, fever and/or chills, shortness of breath)

OR

tested negative for COVID and continue to have cold, flu or COVID-like symptoms

AND

need to see a doctor for an in person visit to assess your symptoms

All patients are welcome. You don’t need to have a family doctor or a health card (if you do have a health card please bring it).

Halton Region Public Health does not have a role in actions associated with Testing and Quarantine requirements for Travel. This falls under federal jurisdiction. Please visit the Government of Canada COVID-19: Travel, testing and borders webpage for current information (external link).

If you have additional questions, please contact the Public Health Agency COVID-19 information line (external link) directly at 1-833-784-4397. Hours of operation are from 7 a.m. to midnight. Interpretation services are available in 200+ languages.

Effective December 31, publicly-funded PCR testing will be available only for high-risk individuals who have symptoms and/or are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 (external link), including for the purposes of confirming a COVID-19 diagnosis to begin treatment, and workers and residents in the highest risk settings, as well as vulnerable populations.

Members of the general public with mild symptoms are asked not to seek testing (external link)

For a full list of individuals eligible for PCR testing visit, the Ministry of Health’s Guidance document Prioritization for Molecular Testing for COVID-19 Infection (external PDF) (page 3).

If you’re eligible for a PCR test, you can book your appointment at a testing location near you (external link). Anyone who does not meet the eligibility criteria may be turned away if they do not qualify.

Home testing is available for clients with a physical or mental disability and are unable to get to a testing facility. Clients should speak to their health care provider for a referral for home COVID-19 testing.

Rapid antigen tests are being used for screen testing, for those with symptoms and for “test-to-work” purposes.

People with symptoms

Rapid antigen tests (RATs) used for people with symptoms can help determine the likelihood of your symptoms being related to COVID-19. If you have symptoms and are not eligible for PCR or molecular point-of-care testing, use a rapid antigen test if you have access to one. If you have symptoms and test positive on a RAT, it is highly likely that you have COVID-19. A confirmatory PCR test is not required.

If you test negative on a RAT, stay in isolation and repeat the RAT after 24 hours. If both RATs are negative, then it is unlikely you have COVID-19.

People without symptoms as screening

People who do not have COVID-19 symptoms and who haven’t had a COVID-19 exposure who choose to complete a RAT (e.g. prior to a social event in a non-highest risk setting) should understand the limitations of RATs including:

  • A single RAT test is not accurate at being able to rule-out COVID-19 infection, especially for people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • A negative test does not rule-out COVID-19; the individual who tests negative may still be infectious for COVID (able to infect others).
  • Must still follow public health measures, including wearing a mask and social distancing.

Test-to-work (work self-isolation)

Rapid antigen tests used for test-to-work can support work self-isolation and meet critical workforce needs for health care workers. Rapid antigen tests can be used to support daily screening during work self-isolation. Ask your employer for more details on work-self isolation.

While waiting for a PCR test result, isolate from others if you have COVID-19 symptoms and/or a known exposure to COVID-19. Visit Ontario.ca/exposed (external link) and complete the COVID-19 self-assessment for further instructions.

Access COVID-19 test results online by visiting covid-19.ontario.ca (external link) and selecting “Check your results”. You will need either the Ontario health card you used to take your test, or a label with a medical record number (MRN) and verification code. If you cannot access test results through this site, please contact the testing location or your health care provider.

If your rapid antigen test (RAT) result is positive:

If your RAT result is negative:

  • If you test negative, but have symptoms, complete a second RAT 24 to 48 hours later if available. If your second test taken within 48 hours of your first test is also negative, then you most likely do not have COVID-19. You can end self-isolation when your symptoms have been improving for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication (48 hours for gastrointestinal symptoms) and if you haven’t been isolating due to an exposure to COVID-19. Your household members may also discontinue self-isolation.
  • If you had a close contact exposure to someone with COVID-19, then you must continue to isolate for a minimum of 5 days from the exposure. Testing negative on a RAT test (even two RATs), will not shorten the isolation period, as it is possible you can still get sick later.
  • If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19, have not been in contact with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19 or has tested positive for COVID-19, and are not required to isolate under The Government of Canada Quarantine Act (external link) following international travel, you do not need to self-isolate.
  • Continue to follow all public health measures (masking, hand hygiene and physical distancing).

Resources:

The demand for Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) is very currently very high and supply may be limited. You can get RATs for personal use (depending on available supply) at:

What to do if you test positive for COVID-19

You are presumed to have COVID-19 if you have symptoms of COVID-19 (external PDF) OR you tested positive on a PCR, rapid molecular, or rapid antigen test.

If you tested positive on a rapid antigen test, you do not require a PCR test for confirmation, and you do not need to report your test results to Halton Region Public Health.

If you have symptoms or test positive, take the following actions:

  • If you’re fully vaccinated or a child under 12, you must self-isolate (external PDF) for at least 5 days from the date you developed symptoms, or, from the date of your positive test result if you have no symptoms.
  • If you test positive on day 5, you are likely to still be infectious. It is not recommended to test again, but rather, you should extend self-isolation to 10 days. If you do choose to test again, you can end your self-isolation after one negative PCR test or two negative RATs separated by 24-48 hours.
  • If you are over the age of 12 and you’re not fully vaccinated, if you’re immunocompromised, or hospitalized for COVID-19 related illness (or at discretion of hospital IPAC), you must self-isolate (external PDF) for at least 10 days from the date you developed symptoms, or, from the date of your positive test result if you have no symptoms.
  • If you have severe illness (requiring ICU level of care) and severe immune compromise, you must self-isolate (external PDF) for at least 20 days from the date you developed symptoms, or, from the date of your positive test result if you have no symptoms.
  • In certain situations, you may be contacted by public health. If you are contacted by public health, follow the instructions that are provided to you.
  • Notify your close contacts, workplace, childcare facility or school of a potential exposure.
  • If your symptoms get worse, talk to a health care provider, or call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.
  • If you have any severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, chest pain or feeling faint, call 911 or go to the emergency department.
  • You can come out of self-isolation when:
    • you have completed your self-isolation period;
    • you have no fever; and
    • your symptoms have been improving for 24 hours or 48 hours for gastrointestinal symptoms.
  • A PCR test or RAT is not required to return to school or work after your isolation period is completed.

Household members should take the following actions:

Your household members must also self-isolate during your self-isolation period, regardless of their vaccination status.

  • If household members develop symptoms, they should follow the directions for those who have COVID-19.
  • If household members do not develop symptoms, they should extend their self-isolation until the last symptomatic person (or person who tested positive for COVID-19) has finished their self-isolation period. (Note: the initial household member(s) with symptoms of COVID-19 do not have to extend their self-isolation period based on other household members becoming ill). They should continue to wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings, not visit anyone who is immunocompromised or at higher risk of becoming ill (i.e., seniors) and not visit any highest-risk setting (for example, hospitals, long-term care, retirement homes and congregate living settings).

Children or those requiring support with daily living can isolate together with a caregiver. Get details about how to self-isolate on the Self-Isolation section on this page.

If you’re someone who works or lives in a highest risk setting (hospitals, long-term care, retirement homes, and congregate living settings) Halton Region Public Health may be in contact with you and provide further directions. You must also notify your employer and follow the instructions provided to you by your employer or occupational health department in relation to your return to work.

If a child or a person who needs support with daily living (such as bathing, feeding, clothing) has COVID-19 or was exposed to COVID-19, parents and caregivers should continue providing care and support to them, but should follow additional measures to protect themselves and others in the home.

Follow these precautions if you’re a caregiver of someone with COVID-19 or a person who has been exposed to COVID-19:

  • If possible, try to limit care for the child or person who has or may have COVID-19 to 1 healthy adult in the household. If possible, the caregiver should be fully vaccinated.
  • People at higher risk for severe illness (seniors, those with chronic medical conditions or who are immunocompromised) should not provide care to the person.
  • A mask should be worn by the person who has or may have COVID-19 as much as possible. They should be encouraged to wear a mask any time they are within 2 metres of their caregiver.
  • The caregiver should wear a mask regardless of whether the person who has or may have COVID-19 is able to wear one.
  • Both people should continue to wash their hands with soap and warm water as often as possible.
  • The caregiver should wear a mask, gloves and eye protection (goggles or face shield) if they have contact with the person's saliva or other body fluids and follow proper precautions for disposing these items (external link).
  • As much as possible, both people should stay 2-metres apart from all others in the household, which includes sleeping arrangements.

As a caregiver you are considered to have an exposure to COVID-19 while caring for a child or person who has COVID-19 and must also self-isolate for a minimum of 5 days from last exposure to the person who has COVID-19. Refer to Exposure to COVID-19 section on this page for further instructions.

Coping with caring for a child with symptoms of COVID-19 can be stressful. It is important to closely monitor your child. Learn more about caring for a child with COVID-19 through the Hospital for Sick Children’s COVID-19 Learning Hub (external link).

You should go to a hospital right away if your child shows the following signs and symptoms:

  • Persistent fever (3 days or longer)
  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish color around the lips or on skin
  • Unable to drink enough fluids or signs of dehydration (e.g. not making tears when crying, urinating less than usual)
  • Unable to wake up or interact
  • Being irritable (e.g. not wanting to be held)

Self-isolation

In response to the rapidly spreading and highly transmissible Omicron variant, the Province has updated the COVID-19 isolation and testing guidelines.  The Halton Region Class Order will be revised in the upcoming days to align with the new provincial guidance. Anyone who is symptomatic, has tested positive or has been exposed to someone who is symptomatic or has tested positive for COVID-19 (PCR or RAT) should visit Ontario.ca/exposed (external link) to determine if they need to self-isolate).

If you are instructed to self-isolate, you are required to do so under a Class Order (PDF file) issued by the Medical Officer of Health under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act. Refer to Halton Region’s Class Order fact sheet (PDF file) to learn how the order impacts you.

Read the following resources for information on how to self-isolate or to care for someone with COVID-19:

Travellers entering or returning to Canada

You are NOT required to provide a negative test result in order to return to work, school, child care or other activities after you have completed you isolation period.

A person who continues to test positive past the isolation period is not infectious, and can return to work, school or child care if:

  • They have completed the recommended self-isolation period;
  • Their symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours (or 48 hours for gastrointestinal symptoms); and
  • They have no fever without taking medication.

If health care staff are needed due to critical staff shortages and rapid antigen testing is available, staff in the highest risk health care settings (hospitals, long term care, retirement, etc.) who have been advised to self-isolate, may return to work on work self-isolation if they are:

  • fully vaccinated; AND
  • remain asymptomatic; AND
  • are actively screened ahead of each shift; AND
  • continuously test negative on required testing.

Refer to the Ministry of Health’s Management of Critical Staffing Shortages in highest risk settings (external PDF) for further information and guidance.

After completing self-isolation, regularly follow these tips for cleaning and disinfecting (external link) to avoid the spread of COVID-19 in your home.

Masking and Ventilation

In light of Omicron’s increasing transmissibility, Public Health Ontario (external PDF) recommends that mask fit and filtration be optimized. This is achieved by wearing a well-fitted medical mask or a non-fit tested respirator (N95s, KN95s).  Medical masks or a non-fit tested respirator (N95s, KN95s) are preferred, but a cloth mask that has at least 3 layers (e.g. two cloth layers with a filter in between) is also acceptable.

Health Canada recommendations regarding COVID-19 mask use:

Public Health Ontario recommendations regarding COVID-19 mask use:

Ventilation helps protect against the spread of COVID-19.  See Health Canada’s tips on how you can improve ventilation and air filtration in your home.

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