Last updated: July 20, 2022 at 4:52 p.m.

Use the COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to determine if you and people in your household need to get tested and self isolate.

The self-assessment is also available in French.

COVID-19 continues to circulate in Toronto. Everyone has a role to play to reduce the spread. The actions you take will protect you, loved ones and those most vulnerable in our community.

Tips to Prevent the Spread

As we live with COVID-19, we can layer our protection with some simple steps:

  • Stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccination, including booster dose(s)  for the best protection against getting very sick from COVID-19.
  • Even if you have had a recent COVID-19 infection, staying up to date with your vaccinations gives you stronger hybrid immunity.
  • Socialize outdoors when possible – outdoors is lower risk than indoors.
  • Wear a high quality, well-fitting mask, especially indoors, and based on the setting and situation. Masks are strongly recommended in indoor public settings, and especially if you are around people who are at higher risk or have a health condition.
  • Stay home if you are sick or have symptoms, even if they are mild.
  • If you have symptoms, get tested and treatment if you are eligible.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands often.
  • Choose well ventilated spaces when possible.
  • Reduce or limit the number of people you have close contact with, especially indoors.
  • Keep a physical distance when possible, especially indoors.

COVID-19 is a viral infection that mainly affects the lungs, but it can also cause damage to other organs. Some people can get very sick with COVID-19 and may require hospitalization or get long-lasting symptoms including feeling tired, trouble breathing, trouble concentrating or muscle aches.

Viruses often mutate and change, creating new variants. COVID-19 variants can spread more easily and cause more serious disease.

Steps to keep everyone safe

  • Get the COVID-19 vaccine, including a booster dose when eligible. Vaccines even work against variants.
  • Stay home and self-isolate if you are feeling unwell. Get tested, if eligible.
  • Keep a physical distance from others, as much as possible.
  • Keep gatherings outdoors, as much as possible.
  • Wear a face mask where and when required, such as in higher risk indoor settings. Consider wearing a mask in crowded indoor places with poor ventilation.
  • Wash your hands or use alcohol-based sanitizer often.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your elbow or a tissue.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

COVID-19 vaccination

COVID-19 vaccines available in Canada are safe and effective, including for people with health conditions, weakened immune systems, auto-immune disorders and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Being fully vaccinated, plus a booster when eligible, reduces the risk of getting, spreading and becoming seriously sick from COVID-19 and variants. Everyone is strongly encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines.

Transmission & Ventilation

Learn more on how COVID-19 spreads and tips to ensure good ventilation.

COVID-19 Symptoms

Common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, trouble swallowing, sore throat, runny nose, loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms can appear up to 14 days after having close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Older adults and children may also have symptoms such as chills, headaches, sleeping more than usual, feeling disoriented, confusion, muscle aches, dizziness, weakness, or falls.

Older adults and people with health conditions are at greater risk for serious illness, requiring hospital care. In very rare cases, some children can get an unusual inflammatory condition. Seek medical attention right away if a child’s symptoms are not improving or they get a rash, long lasting fever, pink eyes and/or swelling in the hands and feet.

What to do if you have symptoms

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, self-isolate and visit COVID-19: What to Do if You Have COVID-19 Symptoms for information on what to do next. Get tested for COVID-19, if eligible.

Self-isolation means staying home and away from others, including people in your household. Do not go outside, to public places, or use public transit. Shop online or call a friend to pick up supplies for you. Call your health care provider if you need help with any symptoms. Call 911 if you or someone else is having difficulty breathing. If you are unable to safely self-isolate in your own home because of lack of space, or because you live with people with underlying health conditions, you may be eligible for support at the Toronto Voluntary Isolation Centre.


Download this information as a PDF.

French Resource:

COVID-19 is spread by respiratory droplets and aerosols, most often from close contact with an infected person, such as:

  • Close contact (being within 2 metres for 15 minutes or more), in crowded indoor spaces or having physical contact, such as hugging someone;
  • Respiratory droplets that come out of your nose and mouth when you breath, talk, cough or sneeze;
  • Aerosols, which are tiny respiratory droplets that can stay in the air longer;
  • Touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

Close contact with a person who has COVID-19 is the most common way that the virus is spread, even if the person has no symptoms.

COVID-19 can also spread from aerosols generated during medical procedures and certain dental procedures. COVID-19 is not known to be spread through ventilation systems or through food or water. Learn more about COVID-19 transmission, aerosols and ventilation.

Transmission from aerosols is more likely when there are a higher number of people indoors, for a longer period of time, with poor airflow or ventilation. With proper airflow or ventilation, smaller virus particles will become diluted and disperse faster, similar to what occurs when you open windows to air out a smoky room. While aerosols may contribute to the spread of COVID-19, infections are still linked to person-to-person transmission through close direct contact with someone who was contagious.

To ensure good air flow:

  • Open windows and doors, if it is safe and possible.
  • Keep your heating and air conditioning systems well maintained.
  • Use the highest efficiency filter that is compatible with your furnace, air conditioner, etc.
  • When using ceiling or portable fans, use upward airflow rotation.
  • Keep the area around air vents clear of furniture, etc.

Respiratory droplets and aerosols

COVID-19 is spread by respiratory droplets and aerosols that are produced when a person who has the virus breathes, speaks, sings, laughs, sneezes or coughs. Respiratory droplets are larger and heavier so they fall to the ground more quickly due to gravity. Aerosols are smaller and lighter than respiratory droplets so they can stay in the air longer. Aerosols are also created during certain medical and dental procedures.

Crowded indoor spaces increase the risk of COVID-19 spread

COVID-19 spreads more easily through the air in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation. The risk increases the longer a person stays in the space, as well as when people are doing activities that cause heavy breathing, such as singing, dancing or exercising, especially without wearing a mask or keeping physical distance. Keep gatherings or socialize outdoors as much as possible, as outdoors is lower risk than indoors.

Improving ventilation and filtration can help reduce the spread

Good air ventilation and filtration help to prevent COVID-19 spread by reducing virus particles in the air. Ventilation increases the amount of fresh air that flows into a space. This is similar to opening windows to air out a smoky room. Filtration works by using a filter to remove virus particles from the air. The filtered air is then returned back into the room. Filters must be used and changed according to the product instructions.

Even when good ventilation and filtration is being used, it is still important to layer your protection by keeping physical distance when possible, avoiding crowds, and wearing a mask if it is the right choice for you based on your level of risk.

Avoid barriers that impact airflow and ventilation

Business operators who have installed physical barriers such as plexiglass must be sure that the barriers do not negatively impact airflow and ventilation. Physical barriers should only be used for businesses that have a high number of short interactions with high-risk contacts, such as at cash registers or checkout counters, and are not suited for settings with poor ventilation.

Wearing a high-quality, well-fitted mask prevents aerosols from entering the air

It is highly recommended to wear a mask in indoor settings, especially if it is crowded and there is poor ventilation. Wearing a high quality, well-fitted mask protects others from our respiratory droplets and aerosols.  This is called source control, and can reduce the spread of germs in the air. Cloth masks should be made of at least three layers of tightly woven fabric (such as cotton or linen), or two layers with a filter layer for extra protection.  Consider a medical mask or respirator for even better prevention.  Masks should be changed when they get dirty or wet. Learn more about face masks.

Spaces with heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems

HVACs and their filters reduce the amount of virus particles in the air. HVAC filtration can reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission indoors when used with other public health measures such as physical distancing and wearing masks. Ensure HVAC systems are in good working condition and regularly inspected. For improved ventilation:

  • Increase air-exchange settings on the HVAC system, if possible.
  • Use the highest efficiency filters that are compatible with the HVAC system(s).
  • Keep areas near HVAC inlets and outlets clear.
  • Arrange furniture away from air vents and high airflow areas.
  • Avoid re-circulating air.

There is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted through the air over long distances or through air ducts.

Spaces without HVAC systems

If possible and safe, open windows and doors in rooms without HVAC systems. If a room does not have ventilation (i.e. no windows or HVAC system), a portable air cleaner can be used. Portable fans, ceiling fans and single unit air conditioners help improve airflow, which is better than no ventilation at all. If a window air conditioner unit or fan is needed, make sure they do not blow directly toward anybody. When using a fan, it is important to put it near an open window or door to help bring outdoor air into the space.

Use of portable air cleaners

Using portable air cleaners in indoor spaces helps reduce virus particles in the air, especially when everyone is wearing a mask. Make sure that the air cleaner keeps running and does not blow directly at anyone. Proper filters should be used and changed regularly.

Using proper personal protective equipment

Healthcare workers doing procedures that generate aerosols and workers who have close contact with other should always wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE).


Download this information as a PDF (also available in French) or visit the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website. Also read the Public Health Agency of Canada’s guidance on using ventilation and filtration to reduce the risk of aerosol transmission of COVID-19 at home.

COVID-19 is spread mainly from person-to-person through respiratory droplets that can travel up to two metres. Keeping a physical distance from others, where possible, is an extra measure that can be taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19, especially for those at greater risk of serious illness.

Here are some ways to practice physical distancing:

  • Greet others from a distance with a smile, nod or wave.
  • Avoid trips during peak times, to limit contact with large crowds.
  • Avoid crowded stores and return when it is less busy.
  • Consider curbside pick-up, if available.
  • Connect with others online, by phone or outdoors.

Resource

It is strongly recommended to wear a well-fitting, high quality mask, especially in indoors public settings. Wearing a mask, in addition to physical distancing, reducing your contacts, getting vaccinated and other public health measures, can reduce the spread of COVID-19, and is an important measure we can still use to protect ourselves and one another. Even though masks may not be required, masking continues to be an important part of our community’s response to the pandemic.

We should still wear masks to protect ourselves & others against COVID-19

It is strongly recommended to wear a mask if you feel it is the right choice for you, based on your level of risk. Masks can be considered:

  • especially if you are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19
  • in high-risk congregate settings, such as shelters and group homes
  • if you live, work or spend time with someone who is at higher risk of COVID-19, such as someone who has a weak immune system or is a senior
  • if you are in a crowded indoor setting with poor ventilation
  • to add an extra layer of protection in any setting

Places where masks are required

The provincial government requires that masks be worn in the following indoor settings:.

  • Long-term care homes and retirement homes

The City of Toronto requires masks be worn in the following indoor settings:

  • Shelters, 24-hour respite and 24-hour women’s drop-in sites
  • TTC Wheel-Trans

Other places where masks may be required:

  • Businesses and organizations, such as hospitals, may put in place their own masking policies. Check with individual organizations to learn more about their policies.
  • Wear a mask if required by your workplace for personal protective equipment.

Masks are still required in all public settings if:

  • You are returning from international travel. If you are not fully vaccinated, including children who travelled with a vaccinated adult, wear a mask for 14-days, even if you are exempt from quarantine.
  • You are a close contact of someone with COVID-19. Wear a mask for 10 days after your last exposure, even if you do not have to self-isolate. Avoid activities where mask removal would be necessary (e.g. dining out).
  • You have symptoms of COVID-19 or test positive. Wear a mask for 10-days after the onset of symptoms or positive test result.

Qualities of a Good Cloth Mask

  • Masks should be made of at least three layers of tightly woven fabric (such as cotton or linen), or two layers with a filter layer for extra protection.
  • Consider a medical mask or respirator for even better protection.
  • You can add the filter layer into the pocket of a cloth mask. For masks without a pocket, cut/unstitch one end and tuck a filter in between the two layers.
  • Your mask should fit your face, covering your nose, mouth and chin without gaping.
  • Your mask should be comfortable, easy to breathe through, and not limit your vision.
  • Your mask and ties/ear loops should fit securely to avoid adjusting during use.
  • Choose a fabric that can support a high temperature wash (e.g. cotton). Avoid stretchy material.
  • Choose a fabric that maintains the mask shape after washing and drying.

People at Greater Risk of COVID-19

A medical mask, respirator or properly fitted 3-layer cloth mask is recommended for anyone who:

  • has tested positive for or has symptoms of COVID-19
  • is caring for someone who has tested positive or has symptoms of COVID-19
  • lives in an overcrowded setting with someone who has tested positive or has symptoms of COVID-19
  • is at risk of more severe illness from COVID-19
  • is at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 because of their living or work situation

Products Not Recommended

  • A face shield is not an alternative to a mask as it does not protect others from your respiratory particles.
  • A face shield may be worn with a mask as added protection for the wearer.
  • Plastic masks do not protect others from your respiratory particles because they do not fit snug to the face.
  • Masks with an exhaust valve can spread respiratory particles into the room. They do not protect others or limit the spread of COVID-19.
  • Neck gaiters, scarves or bandanas are not well secured to the head or ears, making them more likely to move or slip out of place. They also do not cover the nose, mouth and chin securely without gaps.
  • Persons wearing religious coverings should wear a face mask underneath.

Proper Use of a Face Mask

  • Wash or sanitize your hands before putting on and after taking off your mask.
  • Place the mask over your nose, mouth and chin without gaping.
  • Change your mask if it becomes moist or dirty.
  • Remove your mask by the ear loops without touching the front of the mask.
  • Put your used mask in a plastic bag or directly in the laundry bin to be washed.
  • Wash cloth masks after each use with other items using the hot wash cycle and dryer.

What to Avoid When Using Masks

  • Do not share your mask with others.
  • Do not re-use disposable masks.
  • Avoid touching your face or mask when wearing it.
  • Do not wear your mask under the nose or chin, on your forehead, or hang it from your ear.
  • Do not put masks on children under the age of two.
  • Do not put masks on people who have trouble breathing or who cannot remove the mask without assistance.

Communicating with people who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing:

Some people who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing  may remove their mask, or may ask others to remove their mask, because they rely on facial movements and/or lip-reading to communicate. See tips for communicating with people who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing.

Visit the Government of Canada website for information about mask use.


Resources

Learn more about practising good hand hygiene.

There is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread by food or food packaging. Learn more about COVID-19 and food safety.

Most regular household cleaners are effective against COVID-19 and its variants. If surfaces are visibly dirty, first use a cleaner, such as soap and water, then apply a disinfectant to kill the germs and viruses that remain. Leave the disinfecting solution to dry for it to work. You can choose a product that cleans and disinfects. Read the label to find a product that does both. Always follow the product instructions.

Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces such as door handles, countertops, tables, light switches, faucets, sinks, toilets, etc. to reduce the spread of germs and viruses.

Electronic devices such as cell phones, tablets, keyboards and remote controls are the most forgotten surfaces. Use disinfectant wipes that are appropriate for electronics. If there is no manufacturer instructions, use 70 per cent alcohol-based wipes.

For soft surfaces such as clothing and drapes, launder according to the label. It is safe to wash laundry from a person who is sick with other items. Use regular laundry detergent and the warmest appropriate temperature setting. Dry items completely in the dryer, if possible.

Caution: Always read the label and follow product instructions. Use a product approved in Canada (look for a DIN number). Do not mix chemicals. Wear protective gloves/eyewear and open windows for good ventilation. Never use products on your skin or food, as this can cause serious harm. Store chemicals out of reach of children and pets.

For more information, visit Public Health Ontario: Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings.

American Sign Language (ASL) Translation

You can safely perform CPR during COVID-19 and reduce the spread of the virus by following these hands-only CPR guidelines, which were developed by Toronto Paramedic Services.

Know the Law

Learn about the emergency orders, directives and bylaws.

Information in French

For information in French about COVID-19, please visit the Government of Ontario’s website and Public Health Ontario portal.