Canadians crossing the border daily to attend school in the United States: How to quarantine at home during COVID-19

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Organization: Public Health Agency of Canada

Published: 2020-08-14

People with COVID-19 do not always recognize their early symptoms. Even if you do not have symptoms now, it is possible to transmit COVID-19 before you start showing symptoms or without ever developing symptoms.

You need to quarantine for 14 days if, you:

  • are returning from travel outside of Canada
  • in accordance with provincial and local health requirements, had close contact with someone who has or is suspected to have COVID-19
  • in accordance with provincial and local health requirements, have been told by public health that you may have been exposed and need to quarantine

Every person who is required to quarantine or isolate under the Mandatory Isolation Order must wear a suitable non-medical mask or face covering at the port of entry when returning to Canada and while in transit, unless they are alone in a private vehicle. While you travel to and from your place of quarantine, you should remain in the vehicle as much as possible. If you need gas, pay at the pump; if you need food, use a drive-through; if you need to use a rest area, put on your mask and be mindful of physical distancing and good hygiene practices.

Quarantine means that for 14 days you need to:

  • stay at home or other suitable place and monitor yourself for signs and symptoms, even just one mild symptom
  • avoid contact with other people to help prevent transmission of the virus prior to developing symptoms or at the earliest stage of illness
  • do your part to prevent the spread of disease by practising physical distancing in your home

Mandatory quarantine does not prevent a Canadian from daily cross border travel. It does require that you initiate a new 14-day quarantine period each time you return to Canada, effectively putting you in on-going quarantine for the duration of the school year. You and/or accompanying parents should have a suitable quarantine plan in place prior to the start of the school year and the commencement of your daily commutes across the border. You should only leave your home to cross the border to attend class or for medically necessary appointments.Footnote 1

Each time you cross the border into Canada, you will need to answer specific questions posed by the Border Services Officers. These will include: whether you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19; whether you have a suitable place to quarantine; whether you will be quarantining with people at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 (e.g., older adults or those with underlying medical conditions); whether you will be in a group or communal living setting; and whether or not you will have access to the necessities of life (e.g., food, medications). Depending on how you answer these questions, additional screening with a designated government representative may be necessary and you may need to find another suitable place to quarantine.

If you start to develop symptoms during your quarantine, you must:

  • isolate yourself from others as soon as you notice your first signs and symptoms of COVID-19
  • immediately call a health care professional or local public health authority to discuss your symptoms and travel history, and follow their instructions carefully

You can also use the online self-assessment tool (if available in your province or territory) to determine if you need further assessment or testing for COVID-19.

Note: If you are living with a person who develops signs and symptoms of COVID-19, your quarantine period may be extended beyond 14 days. Seek direction from your local public health authority.

To quarantine, take the following measures:

While in quarantine in Canada

Limit contact with others

  • Stay at home or the place you are staying in Canada (do not leave your property). You may use shared spaces, or private outdoor spaces in your place of quarantine provided you:
    • avoid contact with others who did not travel with you;
    • stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom, if possible;
    • disinfect spaces after use;
    • wear a suitable non-medical mask or face covering if a distance of 2 metres from others residing in your place of quarantine cannot be maintained.
  • Only leave your home for medically necessary appointments (use private transportation for this purpose) or to cross the border to attend class.
  • Do not go to any public areas or use public transportation (e.g., buses, taxis).
  • Do not have guests.
  • Use contactless delivery for food and other necessities.
  • Avoid contact with older adults, or those with medical conditions, who are at a higher risk of developing serious illness.
  • Avoid contact with others, especially those who have not travelled or been exposed to the virus.
    • If contact cannot be avoided, keep interactions brief and keep at least 2 metres between yourself and the other person.
  • Some people may transmit COVID-19 even though they do not show any symptoms. Wearing a non-medical mask or face covering (i.e., constructed to completely cover the nose and mouth without gaping, and secured to the head by ties or ear loops) if close contact with others cannot be avoided, can help protect those around you.

A representative of the Government of Canada will call you to monitor compliance with your mandatory quarantine. We ask that you please answer calls from 1-888-336-7735.

The penalties for not quarantining as required under the Quarantine Act can include a fine of up to $750,000 or 6 months of jail time, or both.

If you have any questions, please contact 1-833-641-0343.

Things you can do while in quarantine

While keeping a physical distance of 2 metres from others, you can:

  • greet with a wave instead of a handshake, a kiss or a hug
  • ask family, a neighbour or friend to help with essential errands (e.g., picking up prescriptions, buying groceries)
  • use food delivery services or online shopping
  • exercise at home
  • use technology, such as video calls, to keep in touch with family and friends through online dinners and games
  • work/study from home
  • on your own property only: go outside on your balcony or deck, walk in your yard or get creative by drawing chalk art or running back yard obstacle courses and games

Practise good hygiene

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and dry with disposable paper towels or dry reusable towel, replacing it when it becomes wet.
  • You can also remove dirt with a wet wipe and then use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Cough or sneeze into the bend of your arm or into a tissue.

Keep surfaces clean and avoid sharing personal items

  • At least once daily, clean and disinfect surfaces that you touch often, like toilets, bedside tables, doorknobs, phones and television remotes.
  • To disinfect, use only approved hard-surface disinfectants that have a Drug Identification Number (DIN). A DIN is an 8-digit number given by Health Canada that confirms the disinfectant product is approved and safe for use in Canada.
  • When approved hard surface disinfectants are not available, for household disinfection, a diluted bleach solution can be prepared in accordance with the instructions on the label, or in a ratio of 5 millilitres (mL) of bleach per 250 mL of water OR 20 mL of bleach per litre of water. This ratio is based on bleach containing 5% sodium hypochlorite, to give a 0.1% sodium hypochlorite solution. Follow instructions for proper handling of household (chlorine) bleach.
  • If they can withstand the use of liquids for disinfection, high-touch electronic devices (e.g., keyboards, touch screens) may be disinfected with 70% alcohol at least daily.
  • Do not share personal items with others, such as toothbrushes, towels, bed linen, non-medical masks or face coverings, utensils or electronic devices.

Monitor yourself for symptoms

  • Monitor yourself for symptoms, particularly fever and respiratory symptoms such as coughing or difficulty breathing.
  • Take and record your temperature daily (or as directed by your local public health authority) and avoid using fever-reducing medications (e.g., acetaminophen, ibuprofen) as much as possible. These medications could mask an early symptom of COVID-19.

While in the U.S.

  • Follow the recommendations for travellers within the Pandemic COVID-19 Travel Health Notice.
  • Be aware of and follow all local and institutional recommendations about COVID-19 at your place of study.


Footnote 1

Mandatory quarantine applies for all students (Kindergarten to grade 12 and post-secondary) who attend school across the border in other border communities, with rare exceptions such as needing to cross into the U.S. to get to back to Canada or the formally integrated trans-border community of Akwesasne.

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