What to do if you’re told you’re a close contact

Who’s a close contact?

For COVID-19, a close contact is anyone who was within 2 metres (6 feet) for a combined total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period while someone’s in their infectious period.

The infectious period, which is when someone can spread illness, is usually 2 days before the start of their symptoms through to 7 or 10 days after their symptoms develop.

Avoid ongoing contact with the person who has COVID-19

The direction below is assuming you do not have ongoing contact with the person who has COVID-19. Someone who has COVID-19 should be isolating away from others.

Ask yourself these questions

If someone’s told you that you’re a contact, ask yourself these questions in the following order.

Step 1: What was the last date that you spent time with the person you’re a close contact of?

Make note of the date and use it to calculate your period of self-isolation or self-monitoring in step 4 and 5.

Step 2: Have you had a lab diagnosis of COVID-19 within the past 90 days?

No

Go to step 3.

Yes

Go to step 4.

Step 3: Are you up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines? 

Choose A or B below.

A) If you are not moderately to severely immunosuppressed due to illness or medication, you’d need to have had:

  • 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine and had the 2nd dose at least 14 days before your most recent contact with the person with COVID-19 and within the last 6 months; or
  • 3 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, with dose 3 being your booster dose, at least 14 days before your most recent contact with the person with COVID-19.

Yes

Go to step 4.

No

Go to step 5.

B) If you’re moderately to severely immunosuppressed due to illness or medication, go to step 5.

Step 4: If you’re fully vaccinated according to the definition in step 3

If you’re fully vaccinated according to the definition in step 3, self-monitor for symptoms for 2 weeks (14 days) after the date of your last exposure to the person you’re a close contact of.

If you develop any symptoms:

  • self-isolate; and
  • arrange to get tested.

If you develop symptoms and decide to not be tested, then self-isolate for 10 days after your symptoms start.

Remember that even if your symptoms have gone away, you can still infect others. So if you choose not to be tested, continuing to isolate for the full time is very important to protect the health of the people around you.

Although you do not have to self-isolate if you have no symptoms, consider spending less time with others, wherever possible, especially:

  • people at risk of serious illness; and
  • in settings that are higher risk.

This may include visiting someone in long-term care or scheduling a routine dental appointment. Make sure you closely follow all public health recommendations such as wearing a mask and physical distancing.

Wearing a medical grade mask will also protect people around you.

Calculating your self-monitoring period

It’s sometimes hard to calculate the monitoring period. Look at a calendar and use it to count out the days. The 2 weeks (14 days) you must self-monitor start the day after you were last exposed to the person with COVID-19.

For instance, if the last day you were exposed to the person with COVID-19 was a Monday and you find out on Tuesday, you start your 14 days of self-monitoring immediately on Tuesday. You can stop self-monitoring at midnight 14 days from the Tuesday, which is a Monday.

Step 5: If you are not up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines according to the definition in step 3 

If you are not up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines according to the definition in step 3:

  1. Self-isolate for 7 days after the date of your last exposure.
  2. Self–monitor for symptoms for an additional 7 days.

If you develop any symptoms, no matter how mild, arrange to get tested. If you decide to not be tested, then self-isolate for 10 days after your symptoms start.

Remember that even if your symptoms have gone away, you can still infect others. So if you choose not to be tested, continuing to isolate for the full time is very important to protect the health of the people around you.

You still need to self-isolate even if your test is negative

If you’re tested for COVID-19 and the test is negative, this does not shorten the isolation time. 

If you do not have any symptoms after the 7 days, you no longer need to self-isolate but should continue to self-monitor for symptoms. During your self-monitoring period, consider spending less time with other people, whenever possible, especially:

  • people at risk of serious illness; an
  • in settings that are higher risk.

This may include visiting someone in long-term care or scheduling a routine dental appointment. Make sure you closely follow all public health recommendations such as wearing a mask and physical distancing.

Wearing a medical grade mask will also protect people around you.

Calculating your self-isolating and self-monitoring period

The 7 days you must self-isolate start the day after you were last exposed to the person with COVID-19. The 7 days you must self-monitor start the day after your last day of self-isolating.

For instance, if the last day you were exposed to the person with COVID-19 was a Monday and you find out on a Tuesday, you start your 7 days of self-isolating immediately on Tuesday. You can stop self-isolating at midnight 7 days from the Tuesday, which is a Monday. Your 7 days of self-monitoring then starts the day after on the Tuesday and ends at midnight on the following Monday.

Symptoms to self-monitor for

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of sense of taste or smell
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches

Your symptoms may be mild or severe. They often vary in people who are very young or older people. While most people will experience mild illness, others are at higher risk for severe illness.

If you live with someone who has COVID-19

If the person with COVID-19 in your house is able to isolate away from you, follow the guidance above on what to do.

If you're the primary caregiver or will be in continued contact with the person who has COVID-19, you're required to isolate with them while they have to isolate. This is true even if you're vaccinated. Once they no longer need to isolate:

  • use their last day of isolation of the date in step 1 above; and 
  • follow the guidance for what to do next.

If you develop symptoms

If you develop symptoms, no matter how mild, isolate and arrange to get tested