Last updated: November 24, 2022

Use the Ontario Ministry of Health’s Self-Assessment Tool if you have any symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19 to see what to do next. The self-assessment is also available in French.

You can also review Toronto Public Health’s screening tool.

Everyone has a role to play to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and respiratory viruses (such as the flu). The actions you take will protect you, loved ones and those most vulnerable in our community.

Tips to Prevent the Spread

We can layer our protection against COVID-19 and respiratory viruses with some simple steps:

  • Stay up-to-date with your vaccinations including a fall COVID-19 booster and flu vaccine when eligible for the best protection against getting very sick from COVID-19 and influenza.
  • Even if you have had a recent COVID-19 infection, staying up-to-date with your vaccinations gives you stronger hybrid immunity.
  • It is strongly recommended everyone wear a high quality, well-fitting mask in all indoor public settings, including in schools and childcare settings. It is especially if you are around people who are at higher risk (such as children under 5, seniors or those who have a health condition).
  • Socialize outdoors when possible – outdoors is lower risk than being indoors.
  • Stay home if you are sick or have symptoms, even if they are mild.
  • If you have symptoms, get tested for COVID-19 and treatment if you are eligible.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands often.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your elbow or a tissue.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  • Choose well ventilated spaces when possible.
  • Reduce or limit the number of people you have close contact with, especially indoors and if you are around people who are at higher risk or have a health condition.
  • Keep a physical distance when possible, especially indoors.

Learn more on how you can reduce virus spread when caring for someone or a child who has COVID-19 or another respiratory virus.

COVID-19 & respiratory viruses are spread by:

  • Respiratory droplets that come out of your nose and mouth when you breathe, talk, cough or sneeze;
  • Aerosols, which are tiny respiratory droplets that can stay in the air longer;
  • Close contact (being within 2 metres for 15 minutes or more, or for multiple short periods of time without a mask), in crowded indoor spaces is a common way that viruses spread through respiratory droplets;
  • Touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

Using layers of protection can prevent the spread of COVID-19 and respiratory viruses and help keep everyone safe.

French Resource:

When people gather together indoors, respiratory infections, such as COVID-19 and the flu, can spread more easily.  There are a number of things you can do to improve indoor air quality and help reduce the spread.

How to Reduce the Spread from Respiratory Droplets and Aerosols:

  • Reduce Time in Crowded Indoor Spaces
    • COVID-19 and respiratory viruses spread more easily in the air, especially if it is a crowded indoor space with poor ventilation or air flow.
    • 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.
    • People who have symptoms may also be more contagious. Screening people and asking them to stay home if they are sick or have symptoms, even if they are mild, will prevent further spread.
  • Increase time outdoors
    • Keep gatherings or social activities outdoors as much as possible, as outdoors is lower risk than indoors.
  • Improve Ventilation and Filtration
    • Ventilation means increasing the amount of fresh air that flows into a space. This is similar to opening windows to air out a stuffy room.
    • Filtration means using a filter to remove viruses and other particles from the air. The filtered air is cleaned, and is then returned back into the room.
    • Good ventilation (air flow) replaces indoor air with fresh outdoor air through air exchanges.
    • Good ventilation and filtration help to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses by reducing virus particles in the air.
    • The effect of ventilation and filtration will depend on many things such as: room size, number of people, the type of activities taking place and measures used to improve ventilation.
    • Extra attention may need to be given to ventilation and filtration in settings where aerosol generating activities take place.
  • Use and Maintain Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Systems
    • HVACs can improve ventilation and reduce the amount of virus particles in the air.
    • When using HVAC systems:
      • Have the equipment maintained often to make sure it works well.
      • Avoid re-circulating air, for example, adjust vents to let in as much outdoor air and as little recirculated indoor air as possible through air exchange.
      • Keep areas near air vents free and clear from items such as furniture.
  • For Spaces Without or With Poor HVAC Systems
    • Use Portable Air Cleaners
      • Portable air cleaners filter and clean the air.
      • Make sure that the air cleaner keeps running and does not blow directly at anyone.
      • Proper filters that can filter out small particles from the air, such as HEPA filters, should be used and changed often.
  • Promote Natural Fresh Air Flow
    • Even with good HVAC systems, indoor spaces can benefit from natural fresh air flow.
    • Open windows, if it’s safe to do so.
    • Use portable fans, ceiling fans and single unit air conditioners to improve natural air flow.
    • When using a window air conditioner unit or fan, make sure it does not blow directly toward anyone.
      • Place fans near an open window or door to help bring outdoor air into the space.
      • When using ceiling fans, use the setting that moves the air up toward the ceiling.
  • Use Layers of Protection
    Even when good ventilation and filtration are used, it is still important to have layers of protection such as keeping physical distance when possible, avoiding crowds, getting vaccinated and wearing a mask if it is the right choice for you.
    • Wear a Mask
      • It is strongly recommended to wear a mask in all indoor public 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.
      • Learn more about face masks.
    • Keep physical distance
      • Close contact (being within 2 metres for 15 minutes or more, or for multiple short periods of time without a mask), in crowded indoor spaces is a common way that the virus is spread, even if the person has no symptoms.
      • Keep a physical distance when possible, especially indoors.
    • Other recommended layers of protection
      • Stay home if you are sick or have symptoms, even if they are mild.
      • Avoid crowded indoor spaces.
      • Socialize outdoors when possible – outdoors is lower risk than indoors.
      • Reduce or limit the number of people you have close contact with, especially indoors.
      • Stay up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccination, including any booster dose(s) when eligible for the best protection against getting very sick from COVID-19.

Try the CDC’s interactive home ventilation tool to see how respiratory particles in the air change with different ventilation settings in your home.

Some sectors or settings may require more technical, specific or specialized ventilation measures. For more information, visit:

Other Resources:

COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses are 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 respiratory illnesses, 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 in all indoor public settings, including in schools and childcare settings. Wearing a mask, in addition to physical distancing, reducing your contacts, getting vaccinated and other public health measures, can reduce the spread of these viruses and is an important measure we can use to protect ourselves and one another. Masking continues to be an important layer of protection to keep you, your loved ones, and the most vulnerable in our community safe.

Wear a mask to protect yourself & others

It is strongly recommended to wear a mask in all indoor public settings, including schools and childcare settings. Masks can be considered:

  • especially if you are at higher risk of getting very sick from a respiratory virus
  • 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 becoming very sick from COVID-19 or a respiratory virus, such as children under 5, seniors or those who have a health condition
  • if you are in a crowded indoor setting with poor ventilation
  • to add an extra layer of protection in any setting

Wear a mask in some situations

Masks may still be expected in certain situations:

  • in healthcare settings such as long-term care homes, retirement homes, hospitals and clinics
  • in congregate care settings, such as shelters, group homes, 24-hour respite and drop-in sites
  • at businesses and organizations that have put in place their own masking policies
  • as personal protective equipment
  • on some public transportation, such as TTC Wheel-Trans
  • during travel or when returning from international travel (follow federal requirements)
  • if you have symptoms OR a positive COVID-19 test OR are a close contact of someone who has symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test

Check with individual organizations to learn more about their specific policies.

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

Wear a high-quality, well-fitted, comfortable mask

  • High-quality: A medical mask or respirator can provide better protection. 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.
  • Well-fitted: Your mask should fit your face, covering your nose, mouth and chin without gaping. Ties/ear loops should fit securely to avoid adjusting during use.
  • Comfortable: Your mask should be comfortable, easy to breathe through, and not limit your vision.

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 COVID-19 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.