How to isolate at home when you may have COVID-19

Isolation means staying at home when you have a symptom of COVID-19 and it is possible that you have been exposed to the virus. By avoiding contact with other people, you help prevent the spread of disease to others in your home and your community.
You must:

  • go directly home and/or stay at home if you have:
    • been diagnosed with COVID-19, or are waiting to hear the results of a lab test for COVID-19
    • any symptom of COVID-19, even if mild, and have
      • been in contact with a suspected, probable or confirmed case of COVID-19
      • been told by public health (directly, through public communications or through a self-assessment tool) that you may have been exposed to COVID-19
    • returned from travel outside Canada with symptoms of COVID-19 (mandatory)Footnote *
  • monitor your symptoms as directed by your healthcare provider or Public Health Authority until they advise you that you are no longer at risk of spreading the virus to others
  • immediately contact your healthcare provider or Public Health Authority and follow their instructions if your symptoms get worse

Limit contact with others

  • Do not leave home unless it is to seek time-sensitive medical services.
  • Do not use public transportation (such as municipal transit, taxis or ride-share services).
  • Arrange to have groceries and supplies dropped off at your door to minimize contact.
  • Avoid isolating at home if you cannot separate yourself from those who live with you. For example, if:
    • you live in a group or communal living setting
    • you share a small apartment
    • you live in the same household with large families or many people
    • you have roommates who have not travelled with you that you cannot avoid
    • your location is a camp, student dorm or other group setting where there is close contact and you share common spaces
  • Stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom from others in your home, if possible.
    • This includes if you are living with friends/family who did not travel with you.
  • Thoroughly and regularly clean and disinfect common areas after use.
  • If you have to be in contact with others, practise physical distancing and keep at least 2 metres between yourself and the other person.
  • Avoid contact with people who are at risk of more severe disease or outcomes.
  • If you are staying in a hotel, do no use shared spaces, such as lobbies, courtyards, restaurants, gyms or pools.
  • Keep any interactions brief and wear a medical mask if available when you need to be in the same room with others in the home, or when coughing or sneezing.
  • Follow instructions online for the safe use and disposal or laundering of face masks, or as provided by your Public Health Authority.
  • Avoid contact with animals, as there have been several reports of people transmitting COVID-19 to their pets.

Keep your hands clean

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm 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 containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Cough or sneeze into the bend of your arm or into a tissue.

Avoid contaminating common items and surfaces

  • At least once daily, clean and disinfect surfaces that you touch often, like toilets, bedside tables, doorknobs, phones and television remotes.
  • Do not share personal items with others, such as toothbrushes, towels, bed linen, utensils or electronic devices.
  • 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.
  • Place contaminated items that cannot be cleaned in a lined container, secure the contents and dispose of them with other household waste.
  • Put the lid of the toilet down before flushing.
  • Wearing a face mask, including a non-medical mask or facial covering may trap respiratory droplets and stop them from contaminating surfaces around you.
    • It should be made with at least 2 layers of tightly woven fabric, constructed to completely cover the nose and mouth without gaping and secured to the head by ties or ear loops.
    • Wearing a mask does not reduce the need for cleaning and disinfecting.

Care for yourself

  • Monitor your symptoms as directed by your health care provider or Public Health Authority.
  • If your symptoms get worse, immediately contact your health care provider or public health authority and follow their instructions.
  • If you are at risk of more severe disease or outcomes, you should monitor yourself for worsening or urgent symptoms, such as:
    • new or worsening cough
    • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • temperature equal to or over 38°C
    • feeling feverish
    • chills
    • fatigue or weakness
    • muscle or body aches
    • new loss of smell or taste
    • headache
    • gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting)
    • feeling very unwell
  • If you develop urgent symptoms, call 911 or your local emergency help line and inform them that you:
    • may have COVID-19
    • are at high risk for complications
  • Get some rest, eat a balanced diet and stay in touch with others through communication devices.

Supplies to have at home when isolating

  • Medical masks if available for the case and the caregiver
  • Eye protection (face shield or goggles) for use by caregiver
  • Disposable gloves (do not re-use) for use by caregiver
  • Disposable paper towels
  • Tissues
  • Waste container with plastic liner
  • Thermometer
  • Over the counter medication to reduce fever (e.g., ibuprofen or acetaminophen)
  • Running water
  • Hand soap
  • Alcohol-based sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol
  • Dish soap
  • Regular laundry soap
  • Regular household cleaning products
  • Hard-surface disinfectant
    • If unavailable, use concentrated (5%) liquid bleach and a separate container for dilution
  • Alcohol prep wipes or appropriate cleaning products for high-touch electronics
Footnote 1

Quarantine Act
The Government of Canada is implementing an Emergency Order under the Quarantine Act that requires persons entering Canada-whether by air, sea or land-to isolate for 14 days if they have symptoms of COVID-19, in order to limit its introduction and spread. The 14-day period begins on the day the person enters Canada.

Return to footnote * referrer

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