Contact Tracing, Risk, and What You Need to Know

What is Contact Tracing?
How is Risk Determined?
What is a Low-Risk Contact?
Will I Be Notified if I am a Low-Risk Contact?
What Do I Need to Do if I am a Low-Risk Contact?
What is a High-Risk Contact?
Will I Be Notified if I am a High-Risk Contact?
What Do I Need to Do if I Have Been Told I am a High-Risk Contact?
Must Members of my Household Also Isolate if I am Told I am a High-Risk Contact?
Do I Need to Get Tested if I am a High-Risk Contact?
If I Get a Negative Test Result, Do I Still Need to Self-Isolate for the Full 14 Days?
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. 

Will I Be Notified if I am A Low-Risk Contact?

Not all contacts of a case will be notified.  Low risk contacts will not be notified by the EOHU.  However, you may be notified by your employer, your child’s school or daycare, or through another mechanism that you are considered a low-risk contact.

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 14 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 14 days.

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 High-Risk Contact?

Yes.  If you or someone in your family has been identified as a high-risk 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).

What Do I Need to Do if I Have Been Told I am a High-Risk Contact?

If you have been told that you are a high-risk contact, you must immediately self-isolate for 14 days from the date of the last contact you had with the confirmed case. This means you must:

  • Stay at home:
    • You CANNOT leave your private property to go for a walk or other physical activity, or to walk your pet until the EOHU advises you that you are no longer at risk of spreading the virus. You can only leave your property for an emergency
    • However, if you have a private yard, deck or balcony, you can use these to go outdoors as long as you are following the instructions for self-isolating/isolating. If you live in an apartment, you cannot leave your apartment unit.
  • Monitor yourself for symptoms for 14 days (Click here if you develop symptoms of COVID-19).
  • Avoid contact with others including members of your household as much as possible.
  • If you need to shop, use food delivery services or online shopping. Do not go into stores or supermarkets in person.
  • Arrange to have groceries and supplies dropped off at your door to minimize contact.
  • Ask family, a neighbor or friend to help with essential errands.

NOTE: Even if you have no symptoms of COVID-19 and have received a negative test result, you must still complete the 14-day self-isolation period.

Must Members of my Household Also Isolate if I am Told I am a High-Risk Contact?

Under new enhanced surveillance guidelines from the Government of Ontario, if an asymptomatic member of your household has been told that they are a high-risk contact, you will also be asked to stay at home for the duration of that person's quarantine period, except for essential reasons. Essential reasons include attending work or school/childcare, errands for food, medication, and essential medical appointments. Non-essential visitors must refrain from entering the home during the isolation period.

Note: Household members of someone with symptoms of COVID-19 MUST stay at home and self-isolate until the symptomatic individual receives a negative test result or an alternative diagnosis from a health care provider confirming the symptoms are not related to COVID-19.

Do I Need to Get Tested if I am a High-Risk Contact?

Depending on the situation, you may be encouraged to get tested even if you do not yet have any symptoms of COVID-19.  If at any point you develop symptoms of COVID-19, you should visit an assessment centre and get tested.

NOTE: Even if you receive a negative test result, you must still complete the 14-day self-isolation period.

If I Get a Negative Test Result, Do I Still Need to Self-Isolate for the Full 14 Days?

Yes.  Even if you receive a negative test result, you must still complete the 14-day self-isolation period. For more information and instructions, consult the factsheet:  Tested. Now What? Instructions for Individuals Tested for COVID-19

Additional Resources and Information

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