What to do if you get a positive COVID-19 test result

What your result means

A positive test result means the virus that causes COVID-19 infection has been found in your body. This may be through a lab-based PCR test or an at-home rapid test. 

For most people, symptoms of COVID-19 are mild and can be managed at home.

What you need to do

Continue to self-isolate, follow the recommendations below and notify your contacts.

When you should you seek medical care

If you or your dependants have or develop any of the following symptoms, call 911 and seek immediate emergency help:

  • severe difficulty breathing (for example, struggling for each breath or speaking in single words);
  • severe chest pain;
  • feelings of confusion; or
  • loss of consciousness (fainting).

If you’re concerned about your or your dependant’s symptoms and they are not listed above, or if you need medical advice, phone:

  • 811; or
  • your primary health care provider for guidance on your next steps.

If other people in your home have symptoms of COVID-19 and have not been tested, we highly recommend they get tested.

If you have a medical condition

Contact your primary health care provider if:

  • you’re pregnant; or
  • you have a chronic medical condition including:
    • conditions that affect your breathing, such as COPD and asthma;
    • heart disease; or
    • immune compromised.

How to safely isolate at home

  • It’s important that you self-isolate away from other people in your home who have not been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • If other people in your home also have COVID-19, you do not need to isolate away from them. Get information about self-isolating at home.
  • You should not be having ongoing contact with others who are not isolating with you. This includes people who are immunized.
  • People you live with who have signs or symptoms of COVID-19 are likely have COVID-19 too.
  • Remember even if your symptoms have gone away, you can still infect others. So continuing to isolate for the full time is very important to protect the health of people around you.
  • Most of the time, you’ll stop spreading the virus to others when you have completed your isolation time. You can calculate your isolation time in the next section.
  • Isolating in your home as a single person can be challenging. Connect with family or friends to ensure someone in the community will support you during your isolation.

Who isolates for at least 7 days?

You should self-isolate for 7 days if:

  • you are not immune compromised; and
  • you have mild or moderate illness that does not require hospitalization.

If this applies to you self-isolate:

  • for at least 7 days after the day your symptoms started or after the day you tested positive, whichever is earlier;
  • until your fever has resolved for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications. This includes all medications that decrease symptoms including Tylenol or ibuprofen; and
  • until other symptoms have been improving for 24 hours, or 48 hours if experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms. 

You do not need a negative test result to leave isolation. Instead, assess if you meet all the above criteria.

For 3 days after the end of your isolation, you are recommended to:

  • continue to wear a well-fitting mask in all public settings;
  • avoid activities in where you may need to remove your mask;
  • avoid visiting people who are immunocompromised or at high-risk of illness; and
  • not visit high-risk settings such as long-term care homes, residential care homes, the correctional centre, shelters and transition homes.

Who isolates for at least 10 days?

Self-isolate for 10 days if you:

  • are immune compromised and have mild or moderate illness;
  • are hospitalized for COVID-19 related illness but do not meet the severe illness criteria as listed below for 20 day isolation; or
  • live in a high-risk setting.

If this applies to you, self-isolate:

  • for at least 10 days after the day your symptoms started or after the day you tested positive, whichever is earlier; 
  • until your fever has resolved for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications. This includes all medications that decrease symptoms including Tylenol or ibuprofen; and 
  • until other symptoms have been improving for 24 hours, or 48 hours if experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms. 

You do not need a negative test result to leave isolation. Instead, assess if you meet all the above criteria.

For 10 days after the end of isolation, you are recommended to:

  • continue to wear a well-fitting mask in all public settings;
  • avoid activities in where you may need to remove your mask;
  • avoid visiting people who are immunocompromised or at high-risk of illness; and
  • not visit high-risk settings such as long-term care homes, residential care homes, the correctional centre, shelters and transition homes.

Who isolates for 20 days?

Self-isolate for 20 days if you:

  • have more severe illness requiring intensive treatment, such as illness requiring ICU-level care, shock, sepsis, illness requiring high flow oxygen or multi-system organ failure; or
  • have been diagnosed with COVID-19 pneumonia, regardless of how severe. 

If this applies to you, self-isolate:

  • for at least 20 days after the day your symptoms started or after the day you tested positive, whichever is earlier; 
  • until your fever has resolved for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications. This includes all medications that decrease symptoms including Tylenol or ibuprofen; and 
  • until other symptoms have been improving for 24 hours, or 48 hours if experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms. 

A negative test is not required to leave isolation. Instead, assess if you meet all the above criteria.

People isolating together

If people in your household are isolating together, it increases the chance that more people in the household will get sick. All the people in the household who are not already sick will be considered household contacts. Get out more information on what your contacts should do.

Isolating if you’re a caregiver and you tested positive

What should you do?

If you’re the primary caregiver of a child or dependent who tested positive

If you've travelled outside Canada

If you test positive for COVID-19, you need to follow the quarantine requirements set by the federal government. Follow the federal guidelines to determine how long to isolate.

Find out about the federal government’s quarantine requirements.

If you’re breastfeeding

Reinfection of COVID-19

You can get infected with COVID-19 more than once. This is called reinfection. Reinfection means a person got COVID-19, recovered and then became infected with COVID-19 again later. While cases of reinfection have been reported, they’re rare.

Get vaccinated

Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 and to prevent a serious case of infection. People who have had COVID-19 infection should get up to date with their COVID-19 immunization. You should wait until you’ve recovered and feel better before getting the vaccine.

Book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.

Resources for more information