When a worker tests positive for COVID-19

April 21, 2021

Management of COVID-19 cases and contacts is a public health function; individuals and employers must follow the direction of the local public health unit (PHU). The results of all positive COVID-19 tests are sent directly from the lab to the PHU and the PHU is responsible for following up and determining who they consider to be close contacts (people who have had high-risk exposures). This is what’s referred to as contact tracing.

To understand the public health requirements for COVID-19 self-isolation and return to work for non-healthcare workplaces, review the Ontario government’s sheet for employers COVID-19: self-isolation and return to work | Ontario.ca.

If a worker was in close contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19, the close contact worker must self-isolate for a full 14 days (this is also called quarantine) even if they have a negative test during this time.

This is because it can take up to 14 days after exposure for infection to appear (either as symptoms or in a positive COVID-19 test). Workers can return to the workplace after 14 days of self-isolation if they have not developed symptoms or tested positive.

The PHU may contact an employer after they are informed of a case in a worker; in some places, such as in Toronto, the PHU may require the employer to contact them to report worker cases. In either case, employers may be asked by the PHU to assist with contact tracing, which may involve providing information about who was present at the workplace at the times when exposure may have occurred, or assistance in contacting those individuals.

If an employer has questions about what to do if an employee tests positive, they should contact the local PHU.