Testing Positive and Contact Tracing

What happens when you test positive?

  1. You must self-isolate immediately to protect those around you.

  2. You will receive a call from a Public Health Nurse within a few days who will provide you with guidance about your test result and what you should do.

  3. The contact tracing process begins.

    • Contact tracing identifies anyone who is a high-risk contact beginning 48 hours before symptoms started (or 48 hours before you were tested if you had no symptoms), up until you started self-isolating.
    • The Public Health Nurse will ask questions for contact tracing including:
      • Your contact information
      • Where you work
      • Risk of exposure
      • Current symptoms
      • Places you have recently been
      • Anyone you have been in close contact with. (PLEASE NOTE: It is helpful if you can prepare a list of your high-risk contacts with the name and contact information for each contact ahead of the phone call from public health if possible.)
  4. You may be directed to notify your high-risk contacts directly and provide instructions to self-isolate and seek testing.

  5. Public Health will also ask questions about income, race, language and household size.

    • On June 15, 2020, the Ontario government announced that socio-demographic information will be collected from every Ontario resident who tests positive for COVID-19, or who is a probable case.
    • Collecting this information will help us monitor and understand who is more likely to get sick and have poorer health outcomes during COVID-19. This information will also help us put services and supports where they are needed most and work on addressing the inequities that lead to increased risk. Your Public Health Nurse can answer any questions you may have about the collection of this data.
  6. To assist with contact tracing, we ask that you enter your positive result in the COVID Alert App.
    • You can obtain a key to enter into the COVID Alert App through the online test result portal.
    • When a Public Health Nurse calls, you may request a one-time key to enter into the COVID Alert App.
    • Should you have any questions or difficulty in accessing your key following receipt of a positive COVID-19 test result, please call 1-800-265-7293 ext. 7007 and someone will be able to assist you Monday – Friday between 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Are you a high- or low-risk contact of a positive case?

Please note that this guidance applies to non-healthcare community and workplace settings only. It does not apply to healthcare, childcare or school settings. Refer to the High Risk Contact Flow Chart for information.

Adapted with permission from Region of Waterloo Public Health.
  What it means: What you should do:
High-risk (Close) Contact
  • Spent more than 15 minutes together including shorter, repeated interactions where physical distancing was not maintained without wearing masks or separated by a physical barrier (e.g., plexiglass)
  • Less than 2 metres (for more than 15 minutes)
  • Case or contact not wearing a mask (medical or non-medical) consistently and appropriately and not separated by a physical barrier (e.g., plexiglass)
  • Self-isolate immediately (see what this means here) for 10 days from your last contact with the positive case
  • Do not return to work
  • Limit interactions with household members (isolate in a separate room or bedroom if possible)
  • Disinfect shared spaces after each use
  • Wear a medical mask
  • Get tested for COVID-19
  • If your result is negative, you must continue to complete the 10-day isolation period
    • It can take up to 10 days for symptoms to develop
  • If your test result is positive, continue to self-isolate. Public Health will contact you.
    • Prepare a list of your high-risk contacts, including contact information.

*If you are fully vaccinated or have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 90 days, please refer to the provincial flow chart for next steps.

Low-risk Contact
  • Spent less than 15 minutes together
  • Practiced physical distancing
    • More than 2 metres or separated by physical barriers like plexiglass
  • Consistent and appropriate use of masks (medical or non-medical) by both the positive case and the contact likely reduces the risk of exposure when physical distancing is not practiced consistently
  • Monitor for symptoms for 10 days from your last contact with the positive case
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is at higher risk for serious illness (e.g., medical condition, compromised immune system, older adults)
  • Get tested if you develop any symptoms

How should I prepare for self-isolation if myself or a family member becomes sick? What about my pets?

  • Download the PHAC COVID-19 - Be Prepared fact sheet or visit the website.Take time to consider what you will do if you or a family member becomes sick and needs care. Think about:
    • What food and household supplies you need for you and your family
    • What medicines you need, including renewing and refilling prescriptions ahead of time
  • Discuss your plans with your family, friends and neighbours, and set up a system to check in on each other by phone, email or text during times of need.
  • There have been limited reports of animals becoming infected with COVID-19. There is currently no evidence that pets or other domestic animals play a significant role in the spread of COVID-19. If you are sick, it is recommended that you avoid contact with pets and other animals, just like you would other people, until more is known. PHO has information on How to Care for Pets and Other Animals if you have COVID-19 or you or your pets have been exposed to COVID-19