Contact Tracing, Risk, and What You Need to Know

What is contact tracing?
How is risk determined?
What is a Low-Risk Contact?
What is a High-Risk Contact?
Will I be notified if I am a Low-Risk or a High-Risk Contact?
What do I need to do if I am a Low-Risk Contact?
What do I need to do if I have been told I am a High-Risk Contact?
What should I do if I receive a text message (SMS) stating that I am a case or a contact?
Additional resources and information

What is contact tracing?

When someone in the community is confirmed as having COVID-19 (positive or confirmed case), the EOHU must move quickly to reduce the spread of the virus.  The process known as contact tracing allows public health to identify and monitor people who have been in contact with someone known to be infected with COVID-19. These people (known as contacts) are at risk of becoming infected and spreading the virus to others. 

Contact tracing helps contacts understand their risk and limit further spread of the virus by providing them with specific instructions based on their level of risk, such as getting tested and self-isolating.

To conduct contact tracing rapidly, the EOHU relies on the cooperation of the confirmed case (when possible) as well as other community partners such as employers, business owners, schools and daycares, long-term care, etc.

How is risk determined?

Risk is determined based on a variety of factors including but not limited to:

  • How close a person was to the confirmed case during the contagious period.
  • How long a person was in contact with the confirmed case during the contagious period.
  • What public health measures were in place during the exposure (e.g. proper masking and use of Personal Protective Equipment, physical distancing, hand washing, etc).
  • Where a case occurred (e.g. in a Healthcare setting, a school, long-term care, etc) as well as the nature and severity of the case will also impact risk.

What is a Low-Risk Contact?

A low-risk contact is a person who has been identified through contact tracing as being at low-risk of having been exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19.  This means you may have:

  • Been caring for a person diagnosed with COVID-19 while using appropriate precautions (e.g. wearing a surgical/ procedure mask, eye protection, using disposable gloves and practicing good hand hygiene).
  • Spent time with a person diagnosed with COVID-19, while maintaining physical distancing of two metres. 

What is a High-Risk Contact?

A high-risk contact (or a close contact) is a person who has been identified through contact tracing as being at high-risk of having been exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19.  This means you may have:

  • Had close physical contact (less than 2 metres) with a confirmed case.
  • Been in the same room, workspace, area and/or living in the same home as a confirmed case (longer time increases the risk).
  • Provided direct care for a person diagnosed with COVID-19 without consistent use of appropriate precautions.
  • Had direct contact with bodily fluids.

Will I be notified if I am a Low Risk or a High-Risk Contact?

Yes.  If you or someone in your family has been identified as a contact, you will either receive a phone call from the EOHU or you will be notified by the confirmed case themselves or through another mechanism (such as through your employer, your child’s school or daycare, or other). You may also be contacted via text message (SMS).

What do I need to do if I am a Low-Risk Contact?

If you think you may have been in contact with someone who has tested positive or if you have been notified that you are a low-risk contact, you must self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 for 10 days from the date of the last contact you had with the confirmed case.   If you develop symptoms, you must immediately self-isolate, and perform a COVID-19 self-assessment with an appropriate screening tool.  If you need to be tested, book an appointment at a COVID-19 Assessment Centre.  

NOTE:  Even if you receive a negative test result, you must continue to self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days.

What do I need to do if I have been told I am a High-Risk Contact?

You will be contacted by an EOHU representative, who will provide education and guidance (e.g. self-monitor for symptoms, self-isolate for 10 days, visit an assessment centre and get tested, etc.). Guidance may vary based on different factors including your COVID-19 vaccination status.

If you develop symptoms, you must immediately self-isolate, and perform a COVID-19 self-assessment with an appropriate screening tool.  If you need to be tested, book an appointment at a COVID-19 Assessment Centre

For additional information, consult: Been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?

What should I do if I receive a text message (SMS) stating that I am a case or a contact?

If you have been identified as a case or a high-risk contact, you may receive a text message (SMS) from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU). Reaching cases and contacts via text message (SMS) helps the EOHU to expand their contact tracing capacity by allowing them to collect important information and provide early intervention instructions (e.g. for self-isolation, testing, etc). You can help our case and contact management team and reduce the spread of the virus by providing the information requested and following all instructions. 

Additional resources and information

Eastern Ontatio Health Unit / Bureau de santé de l'Ontario