Last updated: November 18, 2022

To reduce the spread of all respiratory viruses including COVID-19 and the flu, anyone with new symptom(s) of any respiratory virus should stay home. Continue to follow public health measures and stay up-to-date with your vaccinations including a COVID-19 booster and flu vaccine when eligible for the best protection against getting very sick.

Stay at home until you have no fever and symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours (or 48 hours for gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and/or diarrhea).

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you may be eligible for COVID-19 testing and treatment. Treatment must be taken within the first 5-7 days from the start of your symptoms.

You are considered a person with COVID-19 if ANY of the following apply:

  • You have tested positive for COVID-19 on a PCR, Rapid Molecular, or Rapid Antigen test.
  • You have been told by Toronto Public Health that you have a “probable case” of COVID-19.
  • You are not eligible for testing but you likely have COVID-19 based on your symptoms.

For more information on what to do if you are a person with COVID-19, visit the Provincial website.

Toronto Public Health is partnering with Outbreaks Near Me to monitor the frequency of COVID-like symptoms in Toronto. Help us learn how symptoms of COVID-19 may be moving through our community by completing a short survey about your current symptoms.

 

If you have any COVID-19 symptoms (even if mild), it is recommended that you stay home (self-isolate) while you are sick.

This means:

  • Staying home until you have no fever and your symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours (or 48 hours if you have gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and/or diarrhea).
  • After isolating, wear a well-fitted, high quality mask when out in public for 10 days from when your symptoms started.
  • Avoid non-essential visits to vulnerable individuals (e.g. seniors) and highest risk settings (e.g., hospitals, long-term care) for 10 days from when your symptoms started.
  • Follow this advice whether you have tested for COVID-19 or not.
  • Make sure you know if you are eligible for COVID-19 treatments and how to get tested and access treatment if you are eligible.

To find out how long you need to self-isolate, complete the COVID-19 Self Assessment. Follow Public Health Ontario’s instructions on how to self-isolate. 

If you cannot safely self-isolate in your own home, you may be eligible to stay at the Toronto Voluntary Isolation Centre.

If you tested positive for COVID-19, but do not have any symptoms, you are not required to self-isolate.  You should self-monitor for symptoms and self-isolate if symptoms develop. Wear a well-fitted, high quality mask when in all public settings including schools and child care settings and avoid non-essential visits to vulnerable individuals (e.g. seniors) and high risk settings for 10 days from your positive test date.

Individuals with a weak immune system should isolate for at least 10 days (from symptom onset or positive test date) regardless if you have symptoms of COVID-19.

To stop the spread of COVID-19, it is important that you notify your close contacts, so that they can self-monitor for symptoms and self-isolate (stay home) if symptoms develop. A close contact is anyone who you spent time with when you were infectious.

  • If you have COVID-19 symptoms, your infectious period began 48 hours before your symptoms started.
  • If you do not have COVID-19 symptoms, your infectious period began 48 hours before your positive COVID-19 test date.

Close contacts include:

  • Anyone you live with;
  • Anyone who was within 2 metres (6 feet) of you for 15 minutes or more, without a well-fitted, high quality mask;
  • Anyone you had multiple close encounters with over a 24-hour period (even if each was less than 15 minutes) without a well-fitted, high quality mask;
  • Anyone you had close, physical contact with (e.g. hugging) without a well-fitted, high quality mask

Close contacts do not include:

  • People you had brief, close contact with while wearing a well-fitted, high quality mask and/or with a barrier (e.g. Plexiglas) in place.
  • People who you passed by quickly.
  • People you greeted while staying 2 metres (6 feet) apart.
  • Someone who made a delivery to you while you were self-isolating, but who did not have close contact with you.

Please refer your close contact to the what to do if you are a close contact webpage for more information.

Resources

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. The Toronto Voluntary Isolation Centre provides access to a safe and comfortable room, with meals provided, free Wi-Fi, a landline phone and television. This free service is available to people living in Toronto to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to others in their household and the broader community.

Eligibility

Toronto Public Health may identify individuals who can benefit from this program through its process of contacting COVID-19 cases in the City. Alternatively, if you are a member of the public and think you would benefit from this program because you are a case or contact or someone with COVID-19, please contact our Toronto Public Health hotline at 416-338-7600 Monday to Friday from 8:30-4:30pm or 311 on weekends for more information.

Planning for Your Stay

Toronto Public Health will organize your stay at the Toronto Voluntary Isolation Centre.

If you need transportation to and from the Centre, Toronto Public Health can arrange that for you. You will have free access to a comfortable and safe room along with Wi-Fi, a landline phone, television, and three meals and two snacks a day. Learn more about what to bring if you are staying at the Centre.

You may bring food from home, receive outside deliveries or have family or friends drop off food or packages. You may also receive deliveries from community agencies. Only designated staff or guests are allowed to enter the Centre and so all deliveries are received at the front door.

Hotel staff will not enter your room during your stay. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, your room will only be cleaned after you leave the hotel.

photo of Toronto Voluntary Isolation Centre reception area
photo of Toronto Voluntary Isolation Centre guestroom

The Toronto Voluntary Isolation Centre is made possible through funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Testimonials

Read what guests who stayed at the Toronto Voluntary Isolation Centre had to say about their experience:

Thank you so much for allowing me to come here. I appreciate this so much. I’m really so, so happy that I made sure that I didn’t pass COVID to my family. I have two children that I wanted to protect. My daughter has severe asthma and both of my children got tested and they tested negative. I am so grateful and appreciate that you gave me a place to stay and all my meals. While, I was here I was able to sew my daughter a new dress by hand and a matching red face mask. Thank you so much.

Thank you for taking care of me and for the daily check-up calls to make sure that I am safe and comfortable while here in isolation.”

I have never been happier to be Canadian. I am grateful to have this service to be able to isolate… it is truly a blessing to be Canadian; to have Toronto Public Health and OHIP to support me. Thank you for being here for me today and each day as I move through this uncertain virus.

Resources

What is a High-Risk Setting?

High-risk settings are settings where there are vulnerable populations and/or where risk for transmission is greatest. High-risk settings include:

  • Hospitals (including complex continuing care facilities)
  • Congregate living settings, e.g. long-term care homes, retirement homes, First Nation elder care lodges, group homes, shelters, hospices, correctional institutions and hospital schools
  • Employer-provided living settings of International Agricultural Workers

COVID-19 Cases in High-Risk Settings

If you live in a high-risk setting, you must self-isolate for at least 5-10 days after the positive test date or symptom onset (whichever is earlier), depending on the setting. Follow the isolation direction provided by the setting. Self-isolate for your required isolation period and until you have no fever and your symptoms have been improving for 24 hours (or 48 hours if gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and/or diarrhea).

If you work/volunteer/attend a high-risk settings you should follow the direction in the Stay Home and Self-Isolate section above. Generally, you can return to work after 10 days. Speak to your employer and follow workplace instructions for return to work.

If you work in a high-risk setting, tell your employer that you have tested positive for COVID-19 and follow workplace policies.

If you do not work in a high risk setting, it is recommended that you tell your employer to decrease the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may be contacted by the Assessment Centre, Toronto Public Health, or the Ontario Ministry of Health’s provincial workforce. You may receive either a text message, a call, or both in some cases. The information on this page provides the direction on what you need to do; see the self-isolate section for how long you should self-isolate.

As part of your call you may be:

  • Provided with your test results.
  • Asked about your symptoms and when they may have started.
  • Asked if you visited any high-risk settings during your infectious period.
  • Asked if you are able to safely self-isolate or referred to the Toronto Voluntary Isolation Center.
  • Provided with education about self-isolation, additional precautions to prevent the spread, and when you can return to work or school.
  • Provided with information about what to tell any close contacts.

Text Messages from Toronto Public Health

You may receive a text message from Toronto Public Health that you have tested positive for COVID-19. The text message will be from 77000. It may include one of the following:

  • A secure link to complete a personal assessment form may be sent. The form is voluntary and will take about 10 minutes to complete.
    • These are delivered by the Virtual Assistant tool, which is part of the Government of Ontario’s case and contact management system. It can be used on mobile devices and created for a mobile experience.
    • All information collected through the tool is kept confidential and protected by Ontario’s health laws. It will only be used for public health purposes.
    • After you complete the form, you may receive a call to confirm the information you submitted.
  • A 1-way text with a link to instructions on whether you need to self-isolate and what you need to do to help prevent further virus spread.

You can opt out by texting STOP. If you have any questions about text messages from Toronto Public Health, you can call the Toronto Public Health hotline at 416-338-7600. Please do not reply to these text messages as your message will not be received.

Resource:

Keep track of your symptoms so you can tell a health care provider how you have been feeling. Learn more on when to seek medical attention.

You do not need a test to show you have recovered from COVID-19 or to end your isolation.  Re-testing is not recommended because you may still test positive for several weeks even though you are no longer infectious.

A negative test, doctor’s note, or clearance letter is not required for you to return to work and Toronto Public Health does not provide return-to-work letters.

In general, you can return to work, school, and your everyday activities when you have no fever and your symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours (48 hours if you have gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea).

If you work in a high-risk setting,  you can return to work after 10 days from positive test date or symptom onset (whichever is earlier), or sooner in some instances. Speak to your employer and follow workplace policies.

Toronto Public Health strongly recommends that you continue to practice prevention measures. These include hand washing and physical distancing, where possible. Toronto Public Health also strongly recommends wearing a well-fitted, high quality mask when in all indoor public settings including schools and child care settings. Masks are especially recommended for people at higher risk of getting seriously sick from COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses. Masks are still required in some settings.

You may feel lingering effects of your illness even after your self-isolation period ends. Please speak with your health care provider or call Health Connect Ontario at 811 if you need further care.

If you have questions about your self-isolation period or whether you can return to work, call the Toronto Public Health hotline at 416-338-7600.

Breastfeeding (also known as chest feeding) your baby is recommended even if you have COVID-19. This is because breast milk has many health benefits for babies, including protection from different illnesses.

Research shows:

  • Protective antibodies are in the breastmilk of people who got the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Protection against COVID-19 may be passed to baby through breastfeeding.
  • Breast milk does not spread COVID-19 to babies.

If you have COVID-19 and are breastfeeding:

  • Clean your hands before and after breastfeeding, expressing breastmilk and caring for your baby.
  • wear a well-fitted face mask while breastfeeding and whenever you are within 6 feet of your baby while you are contagious
  • Monitor your baby for symptoms of COVID-19
  • Take care of yourself. Drink plenty of fluids, eat regularly throughout the day and make sleep/rest a priority.
  • Follow all self-isolation instructions.

If you have COVID-19 and choose to express breast milk:

  • Use your own breast pump and do not share with anyone else, if possible
  • Wear a mask when you express breast milk
  • Clean your hand before and after touching any pump or bottle parts
  • Make sure any bottles are properly sterilized
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for pump cleaning after each use

If you have made an informed decision to feed your baby infant formula:

  • Ask someone who is well to feed the baby, if possible
  • Clean your hands and wear a face mask while preparing formula, handling bottles and feeding the baby.
  • Sterilize bottles and equipment.
  • Try to have a three day supply of formula on hand.
  • If your baby is under two months of age, use liquid concentrate or ready-to-feed formula.
  • Homemade infant formula is not recommended because it does not have enough nutrition for your baby. Learn more about infant formula.

All caregivers must practice good hygiene, including hand washing and wearing a face mask, before touching the baby, breast pump, or feeding bottles and equipment.

If you feel too sick to breastfeed or are not with your baby, try to hand express or pump your milk at least eight times in 24 hours, and once during the night. This will help keep up your breastmilk supply.

Learn more about breastfeeding and COVID-19 and breastfeeding.

Also see information about vaccinations while breastfeeding.

  • If you have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive, you must follow all self-isolation instructions.
  • You can still hold your baby skin-to-skin and stay in the same room as them, especially when bonding and breastfeeding.
  • To lower the chance of spreading the virus to your baby or child:
    • Clean your hands before touching your baby or child.
    • When awake, wear a well-fitted high-quality mask over your nose, chin and mouth whenever you are within 6 feet of your baby/child and other people during your entire isolation period. Children over the age of two should also wear a well-fitted face mask when they are near you.
    • If sleeping in the same room as your baby or child, make sure the space is well ventilated and maximize the physical distance between you.
    • Have your older child sleep in their own room if possible.
    • If you share a bathroom with your child, clean frequently touched surfaces (counters, faucets, doorknobs and toilet handles) after each use and close the lid of the toilet before flushing it.
    • Avoid eating with your child.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in your home.
  • If possible, ask a caregiver or family member to help care for your child. This person should: be up to date with all COVID-19 vaccinations, not have any COVID-19 symptoms, and not be at a higher risk for severe illness. If you require support, please call 211.
  • Once you are feeling well and have finished isolating, the best way to protect yourself and your child is to ensure your entire household gets vaccinated for COVID-19.

More information