Contact tracing is the process of identifying, educating and monitoring people who have had close contact with someone infected with COVID-19. These people are at greater risk of becoming infected and sharing the virus with others. Public health officials use contact tracing to help people who’ve been in contact with the virus understand their risk and limit further spread of the virus by getting tested and self-isolating.
Contact tracing is the third pillar of the OMA white paper, Reopening Ontario to a “New Normal”: Five Public Health Pillars for a Safe Return. Identifying people who are infected with the virus and people they might have infected, is essential for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the community and keeping everyone safe.
Keeping track of your contacts can help keep your friends, your family, and anyone else you interact with as safe as possible. If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, a public health worker will contact you and ask you where you’ve been, who you have had prolonged contact with, and when that contact was. It can be hard to remember such details, especially when you may be feeling unwell or stressed.
You can help prepare for this by keeping track of your prolonged contacts.
Your list of contacts might not include every detail and that’s OK.
Any information you can keep will help if you get sick, and it will help to protect those around you.
Prolonged contact means you interacted with someone within two metres for 15 minutes or more.
You should record WHERE you went, WHEN you went there, and WHO you interacted with for more than 15 minutes. It’s also helpful to note if you or the other person were wearing masks, and if you were indoors or outdoors.
You should also note anyone you interacted with that you may have exposed to infectious body fluids. For example, someone you coughed on, sneezed on or kissed.
Tracking your contacts is simple. You should use whatever method works best for you. Consider keeping notes on your phone, recording voice notes on your phone, taking pictures of where you went, keeping a diary or journal or just writing notes on a piece of paper.
You can DOWNLOAD the OMA contact tracing template here.
Note WHERE and WHEN the contact took place, and anything you do know about them. For example, you had a prolonged conversation with a produce worker in your local grocery store. Contact tracers can use the information you do have to trace your contacts.
No. The most important contacts to note are the prolonged contacts, and anyone that you may have exposed to body fluids. You can also note any additional interactions you think are important. For example, someone you interact with often but not for a prolonged period of time, such as a building concierge.
Ontario is currently looking into contact tracing apps.
When one is available, we highly recommend you download it, keep your phone turned on, and let the app run. You should also tell your friends and family to download it – the more people who use the contact tracing app, the more effective it can be.
Staying home, physical distancing and frequent hand-washing continues to be the most effective means of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Face coverings will not prevent you from getting COVID-19.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health has recommended that individuals wear a non-medical mask or face covering when physical distancing is not possible (such as on public transit or in a small grocery store or pharmacy). The OMA recently released a key recommendation is that everyone wears some kind of face covering whenever you come into contact with someone else, including indoors.
There is a limited supply of facemasks for frontline health-care workers. Surgical and N95 masks should be saved for medical professionals so that they can stay healthy and care for ill patients.
When you come into contact with others, practice physical distancing. Be sure to KEEP YOUR DISTANCE (at least 2 metres or 6 feet) from others and clean your hands often. If using soap and water, for at least 20 seconds. If using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, use enough product to ensure at least 20 seconds of rubbing hands together.
For more information, see the Ontario government's guidance on face masks and non-medical face coverings.
If you are showing any symptoms you must STAY HOME and self-isolate away from other people.
If you have symptoms of a viral illness, then wearing a facemask can help reduce the risk of infecting others. This is because a mask reduces the spread of infected droplets coming from your nose and mouth.
Non-medical masks or face coverings should be made of at least two layers of tightly woven material, be large enough to cover the nose and mouth completely, fit securely, and keep their shape after washing.
When you wear a face covering, you should, wash your hands before you put one on and after you take it off. Remember the outside of the mask is considered "dirty". Do not adjust your mask or touch the mask or your face while wearing it. Do not share your mask. After you take it off, wash it in hot water or throw it out.
On April 27, the Ontario government released a framework for reopening our province. The framework is based on public health guidance and outlines a three-stage approach for loosening emergency measures and reopening the economy.
As of May 4, the Ontario government is allowing certain seasonal businesses to reopen under strict safety guidelines.
Ontario’s doctors are committed to providing the best patient care possible. We worked closely with government and other stakeholders to prepare for and manage through COVID-19. We are offering our expertise and leadership now to help avoid another COVID-19 surge.
Reopening Ontario to a ‘New Normal’: Five Public Health Pillars for a Safe Return – sets out a series of increased public health measures it recommends be put in place for the province to re-open safely.
We urge everyone to continue doing what they can to keep themselves and others safe. Wear masks, wash hands often and practice physical distancing.
We strongly recommend that employers regularly clean and disinfect common high-traffic areas, and shared surfaces and items.
Staff should have access to handwashing facilities and/or hand sanitizers, as well as the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) required.
Physical distancing should be enabled as much as possible, and employers should encourage employees to continue to work from home if they are able.
Employers should also understand that employees will need to self-isolate if they become sick.
You should not be at work if you are ill. Let your Human Resources department or manager know, according to your workplace’s policy, and leave work. Call your doctor’s office or Telehealth for further instructions.
Avoid shared items where possible. Bring your own coffee, try not to share computers or phones, employers should help to facilitate this.
If you have to touch or use items that others are also using, you should disinfect the surface/item and wash or sanitize your hands before and after use.
Employers are strongly encouraged to regularly disinfect commonly touched surfaces/items.
And as always, keep your distance.
If you can work from home you should continue to do so.
We recommend that employers encourage people to use their own means of transportation where possible and reserve public transit for those without other options.
The OMA recommends wearing a mask in public, washing your hands, or using hand sanitizer before and after getting on transit, and keeping your distance as much as possible from other passengers. Cough or sneeze into your elbow and do not touch your face.
The process of sharing your wishes for your future health and personal care with your family and/or Substitute Decision Maker (SDM) is called Advance Care Planning. This is an opportunity to communicate your wishes, values and beliefs with your family or SDM so that they can make future health care decisions for you if you are not capable to make them yourself.
Regardless of age, having the conversation about advance care planning is a smart idea for everyone. It’s always better to be prepared. Advance care planning is appropriate for individuals at any age (age 16 or older).
Advance Care planning involves the following:
Plan Well Guide
Plan Well Guide is a free online tool to help people learn about medical treatments and prepare them for decision-making during a serious illness, like COVID-19 pneumonia. It’s about getting the medical care that’s right for you or your loved one.
Ontario’s doctors and specialists are open for business during the COVID-19 pandemic and are doing everything they can to continue to care for patients.
Doctors and specialists are able to deliver care through virtual means – by phone or video. If you need health care – including non-COVID care, please call your doctor’s office.
Virtual care helps to keep patients out of waiting rooms where they could be at risk of infecting others or becoming infected themselves.
Patients can access virtual care two main ways:
Virtual care visits by phone or video are covered by OHIP. For more information about what to expect from a virtual visit click here.
YES. Anyone can catch COVID-19.
While it is true older people are more likely to be severely affected, young people are not immune to COVID-19. As the virus spreads across the world, people between the ages of 18-40 are making up a significant portion of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. In Canada, new COVID-19 cases among youth and young adults are reported every day.
Dr. Teresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, says people of all ages, should practice physical distancing. Many young people who’ve contracted COVID-19 experience mild symptoms and can unknowingly spread the virus if they continue interacting with others
Young people who do not practice physical distancing put themselves and others at risk.
We are working closely with the Ministry of Health and other healthcare providers to contain the virus, protect and care for patients and keep all our front-line workers healthy.
One of the best ways to protect yourself and your family is to have accurate information.
Find answers to questions about the virus on this site.
It is important that Ontarians take preventative measures to reduce risks to their health and well being. The risk of transmission is similar to that of the flu.
Simple measures such as staying home as possible, handwashing and practicing proper sneezing etiquette go a long way to prevent the transmission of infectious disease. Should you need to leave your home, we urge you to keep at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and those around you. Learn more.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Like all viruses, some people who get them experience mild symptoms, and some more severe symptoms. Some coronaviruses spread easily between people, while others do not.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other respiratory infections, such as influenza, and include things like:
Your risk of experiencing severe symptoms is higher if you have a weakened immune system. This may be the case for:
Physical distancing is limiting close contact (approximately 6 feet) with others in the community. It is key to slowing the spread. This will help to minimize the impact of the spreading virus and flatten the curve, which essentially means a longer, slower rise in numbers of patients affected. Please see the OMA policy on Physical Distancing.
Physical distancing disrupts everyone’s daily routine. Things you used to do to stay healthy may not be possible as you practice physical distancing. Finding new physical distancing-friendly routines for nutrition, exercise and social interaction will help you stay healthy.
It’s important to remember that physical distancing does not mean social isolation.
Dr. Frank Sommers, a Toronto-based psychiatrist, provides strategies to help you stay emotionally connected, and maintain your mental well-being during this trying and extraordinary time. In his OMA podcast, Dr. Sommers explains why maintaining your mental health during COVID-19 is important, and ways to adjust to life six-feet apart.
Physical distancing means keeping a safe distance (approximately 6 feet) from others and avoiding gathering spaces such as schools, churches, concert halls and public transportation.
Quarantine involves avoiding contact with others if a person has been exposed to coronavirus to see if they become ill.
Isolation involves separating an individual who has contracted COVID-19 to prevent them from spreading it to others. You will also be asked to self-isolate if you have recently travelled.
For more resources:
If you develop COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing), self-isolate.
The majority of COVID-19 illnesses are mild. A clinician can help guide whether you will require further care or potential testing in person. Please use one of the following options:
Many have been asking us about the province's newly announced self assessment centres. If you believe you or a loved one may have contracted COVID-19, call your local public health unit or Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000). You may be directed to a hospital or a regional assessment centre.
At this time, there is a serious lack of evidence that supports the widespread use of either hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. In addition, there are significant potential adverse effects if using either of these drugs with other medications, particularly for those with chronic medical conditions such as kidney failure.
Should you be asking your doctor for any of these drugs (hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin), just in case they do help treat COVID-19?
Generally, our answer is no. Your doctor is best able to answer this question, depending on your personal medical history.
While research and testing are ongoing, we strongly advise against unrestricted prescribing and dispensing of these two products.
Due to the recent yet-to-be-proven claims of effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine sulfate against COVID-19 and the growth in prescribing for it, we are now faced with a very serious shortage (and some brands, outages) of the product. There is no evidence to suggest it will help you, and it could be harmful to others who need the drug. For example, the shortage presents very serious challenges for patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
It is recommended that you refrain from travel. If travel is considered essential:
For more information, download our fact sheet.
If you have questions regarding medical advice please contact your doctor or other medical provider.
For general information please visit COVID-19.Ontario.ca
For the latest on travel information please visit travel.gc.ca
We will let you know when updated information is posted on virusfacts.ca