COVID-19 Self-Isolation, Symptoms and Testing

This information outlines guidance that applies to the general community and to school and child care settings. Guidance may differ for those who work in highest risk settings such as a hospital, long-term care home or a retirement home. Employees who have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 should speak with their employer and follow any workplace guidance for return to work.

Take the COVID-19 self-assessment if you have any symptoms of illness or tested positive for COVID-19.

How long to stay home when sick

If you're sick, stay home to prevent infection from spreading to others. Without testing, it can be hard to tell what infection you have based on just symptoms alone. Whether you test positive for COVID-19 or not, if you're experiencing symptoms you should stay home until:

  • You have no fever, without the use of fever reducing medication and
  • Your symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours or 48 hours if you have nausea, vomiting and / or diarrhea and
  • You have not developed any new symptoms

If you are immunocompromised and test positive for COVID-19 or have not been tested yet, stay home for 10 days from when your symptoms started or from the date of the positive COVID-19 test, whichever is earlier. If you test negative, follow the stay-at-home guidance.

Do your best at home to self-isolate to help prevent other household members from getting sick. Learn how to properly self-isolate.

When you are no longer isolating at home, follow additional precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses.


Assume you may have COVID-19 and may be contagious if you have:

Any one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Decreased or loss of taste or smell

Any two or more of the following symptoms:

  • Runny nose or nasal congestion
  • Headache
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches or joint pain
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea

Close contacts

In the community, it is the responsibility of the individual with COVID-19 symptoms or COVID-19 positive test to determine who their close contacts are and to let them know of their potential exposure.

A close contact is anyone you were close to (within two metres) for at least 15 minutes, or multiple shorter lengths of time, without safety measures such as masks or distancing, 48 hours before your symptoms starting or your positive test result. If you're a close contact (household or non-household), follow additional precautions.

Where to get tested in Niagara

Molecular (PCR) tests

Some pharmacies in Niagara offer PCR COVID-19 testing for eligible individuals. Find a participating pharmacy near you.

You can also get tested at the following clinics if you meet the eligibility criteria. This is not a full list of testing locations.

  • Fort Erie: Fort Erie Medical Clinic drive-through testing by appointment only. To book an appointment, email
  • St. Catharines: PromptDoc Clinic by appointment or walk-in. Walk-in testing is available during specific hours only.

Rapid antigen tests

Free rapid antigen tests are available at participating pharmacies and grocery retail locations while supplies last. Learn about rapid antigen tests for at-home use.

Free rapid antigen tests are also available at Niagara Region Public Health offices and community clinics while supplies last.

COVID-19 testing and treatment

If you're at a higher risk of severe illness due to COVID-19 and have symptoms, you should get tested for COVID-19 and seek care as soon as possible. This is because you may benefit from available COVID-19 treatments if you test positive. A health care provider will determine if treatments are right for you.

Learn about COVID-19 testing and treatment.

  • If you test positive

    If you test positive on a COVID-19 rapid antigen test or PCR test, stay home to prevent infection from spreading. If you test positive on a rapid antigen test, you do not need a PCR test to confirm your result unless directed by a health care provider.

    Anti-viral treatment is available for eligible individuals. If you have symptoms, have a positive test result and are at higher risk of severe COVID-19, it's important to reach out to your health care provider right away. Treatment is most effective when taken within the first few days of your symptoms starting. You can access treatments by contacting:

    • Your family doctor. If you don't have one, visit find a doctor to learn about walk-in clinics and family physicians accepting new patients.
    • Health811 or by calling 8-1-1
    • Urgent Care Ontario (online only)
    • Local participating pharmacies
  • If you test negative

    If you test negative but are experiencing symptoms, it is important to stay home if you're sick to prevent spreading infection to others.

    A COVID-19 test is only a snapshot of your health on the specific date and time the swab was taken. No testing is perfect and a negative result doesn't mean you won't become positive for COVID-19. It can also mean you may be infected with another respiratory virus infection. Learn about negative COVID-19 test results.

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