Need a refresher? Here’s what to do if you get COVID-19 in Ontario right now

Ontario entered a new phase of the pandemic this week, dropping its provincial mask mandate in most public settings.

At the beginning of March, the province also lifted its proof of vaccination requirements, meaning patrons no longer have to show they’ve been fully vaccinated in order to enter non-essential settings such as restaurants, movie theatres, gyms and more.

As restrictions lift and Ontarians begin to venture outside and congregate more frequently, you may need a refresher on what to do if you are infected or exposed to COVID-19.

CTV News Toronto has compiled some of the most common questions on COVID-19 as the province enters a new phase of reopening:

What should I do if I start feeling sick?

If you start feeling sick, you can use the Ontario government’s COVID-19 self assessment tool. While this tool does not provide official diagnosis, it will provide guidance on next steps.

If you start experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you must isolate. You should attempt to seek out a COVID-19 test.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

  • fever and/or chills;
  • OR a cough;
  • OR shortness of breath;
  • OR a decrease or loss of taste or smell;

OR Two or more of:

  • runny nose/nasal congestion
  • Headache
  • extreme fatigue
  • sore throat
  • muscle aches/joint pain
  • gastrointestinal symptoms (i.e. vomiting or diarrhea)

Can I get COVID-19 again if I’ve already gotten it?

Yes, reinfections of COVID-19 are possible, while less likely than initial infections.

While reinfection was less common with the Delta variant, early studies suggest that mild Omicron cases don’t render enough immunity to prevent future infections.

Where can I get a COVID-19 test in Ontario and what kind should I use?

For a majority of the general public, the most accessible COVID-19 test to acquire is a rapid antigen test.

Beginning in early February, the Ontario government began handing out rapid tests for free at participating pharmacies, doctor’s offices and grocery stores.

To find the nearest location to you handing out tests, use the provincial rapid test locator.

If you test positive on a rapid test, you do not need to book a lab test to confirm the result.

If you need instructions on how to administer a rapid test, click here.

Can I still book a PCR test in Ontario?

In late 2021, Ontario limited access to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 tests, or lab tests, in an attempt to preserve resources.

As of now, you need to be experiencing at least one COVID-19 symptom and fall into one of the following categories in order to qualify for a PCR test:

  • a patient-facing health care worker
  • a patient in an emergency department, at the discretion of the treating clinician
  • a staff member, volunteer, resident, inpatient, essential care provider, or visitor in a highest risk setting
  • a home and community care worker
  • a Provincial Demonstration School and hospital school worker
  • someone who lives with a patient-facing health care worker and/or a worker in the highest risk settings
  • an outpatient being considered for COVID-19 treatment
  • an outpatient who requires a diagnostic test for clinical management
  • a temporary foreign worker living in a congregate setting
  • underhoused or experiencing homelessness
  • pregnant
  • a first responder, including firefighters, police and paramedics
  • an elementary or secondary student or education staff who has received a PCR self-collection kit, if available through your school
  • directed by your local public health unit

If you fall into one of the following categories, you qualify for PCR testing regardless of whether you’re experiencing symptoms:

  • are from a First Nation, Inuit, or Métis community or self-identify as First Nation, Inuit or Métis or live with someone who does
  • are travelling into First Nation, Inuit or Métis communities for work
  • are being admitted or transferred to or from a hospital or congregate living setting
  • are a close contact in a confirmed or suspected outbreak in a highest risk setting, or other settings as directed by the local public health unit
  • have written prior approval for out-of-country medical services from the General Manager of OHIP or are a caregiver for someone who does
  • are in a hospital, long-term care, retirement home or other congregate living setting, as directed by public health units, provincial guidance or other directives

What if I can’t safely acquire a test?

The Ministry of Health asks those who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to stay home and isolate for 14 days regardless of test results.

How long do I need to isolate for if I test positive for COVID-19?

If you are fully vaccinated or under the age of 12-years-old, you must isolate for five days.

If you are over the age of 12-years-old and are not fully vaccinated, or you are immunocompromised, you must isolate for at least 10 days.

In both cases, if you reach the end of your isolation period and still have symptoms, you must continue to isolate until your symptoms have improved for at least 24 hours (or 48 hours if the symptoms affect the digestive system) and you have no fever.

Am I supposed to report my positive result of COVID-19?

If you test positive on a rapid test, you don’t need to report your results. If you test positive on a PCR test, your public health unit should report your results for you.

Should I call a doctor if I test positive COVID-19?

You don’t necessarily need to call a health practitioner following a positive COVID-19 result, especially if you are not experiencing symptoms.

However, the Ministry of Health recommends visiting a clinical assessment centre if you develop symptoms and you are at high-risk for severe illness, or if you have symptoms that cannot be safely monitored at home, but are not experiencing severe symptoms that require emergency care.

If you develop severe symptoms requiring medical attention, such as shortness of breath or chest pain, call 911.

Who do I need to tell after I’ve tested positive?

If you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have tested positive, you should tell your close contacts they’ve been exposed.

The Ministry of Health defines a close contact as “anyone you were less than two metres away from for at least 15 minutes,” or “multiple shorter lengths of time, without personal protective equipment in the 48 hours before your symptoms began or your positive test result, whichever came first.”

Can I access COVID-19 medical therapies if I test positive?

On Jan. 17, oral antiviral Paxlovid was approved by Health Canada and soon after Ontario received limited quantities from the federal government.

According to the Ministry of Health, patients must begin Paxlovid within five days of symptom onset for the treatment to be effective.

A full course of treatment is three pills twice daily for five days in a row.

Currently, only the followings groups who have a positive COVID-19 diagnosis are eligible to receive Paxlovid:

  • immunocompromised individuals aged 18 and over regardless of vaccine status
  • unvaccinated individuals aged 60 and over
  • unvaccinated First Nation, Inuit and Métis individuals aged 50 and over
  • unvaccinated individuals aged 50 and over with one or more risk factors

If you think you may be eligible, you can contact your primary care provider or Teleheath Ontario at 1-866-797-0000. Clinical assessment centres can also help determine eligibility for Paxlovid.

Do I need to isolate if someone in my house tests positive?

If you have had COVID-19 in the last 90 days and do not have symptoms, or if you’re over 18-years-old and have received either two or three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, you don’t need to isolate.

Instead, the Ministry of Health recommends self-monitoring for symptoms for 10 days. It is also recommended to wear a mask when in public, maintain social distancing and not visit high-risk individuals.

If you begin experiencing symptoms, you must isolate. If you are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, you must isolate regardless of the presence of symptoms.

Do I need to isolate if I’m exposed to COVID-19 from outside my household?

If you are exposed to a COVID-19 case from outside your household, you must monitor for symptoms for 10 days.

If you start to experience symptoms, then you have to isolate.

What should I do if I’m exposed and I live or work somewhere high-risk?

If you are not experiencing symptoms, you don’t need to isolate — but the Ontario government asks that you inform your place of work or residence, and do not attend the specific location for 10 days.

The Ministry of Health defines high-risk settings as:

  • hospitals and health care settings, including complex continuing care facilities and acute care facilities
  • congregate living settings, such as long-term care and retirement homes, First Nation elder care lodges, group homes, shelters, hospices, temporary foreign worker settings, correctional institutions and Provincial Demonstration Schools and hospital schools
  • home and community care settings

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