Information for COVID-19 Close Contacts

A close contact is anyone who has been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, while that person was infectious.

Exposed means any of the following:

  • You were within six feet of the person for at least 15 minutes while indoors.
  • The person coughed or sneezed near you.
  • You care for the person at home.
  • The person touched, hugged or kissed you.

Masks are an added layer of protection against COVID-19. However, even with masking, you are still considered a close contact if any of the above scenarios applies to you.

A person with COVID-19 is generally considered infectious (can spread COVID-19 to others):

  • Beginning 48 hours (two days) before symptoms started, or, if no symptoms, 48 hours before the positive test was taken, and 
  • Ending when they are considered recovered. Typically this is: 
    • If fully vaccinated or 11 years old or younger: 7 full days after the start of symptoms (or 7 full days from test date if no symptoms) AND feeling better.
    • If not fully vaccinated or immunocompromised (without third dose): 10 full days after the start of symptoms (or 10 full days from test date if no symptoms) AND feeling better. 

I'm a close contact, what now?

I am a close contact of a positive case in my household 

Instructions for close contacts in a household vary based on:

  • Whether you can isolate away from the household member
  • Whether you need to/choose to isolate with the household member

Read this important information about what you need to do as a household close contact: Someone in my household tested positive: What do I do?

I am a close contact, I’m fully vaccinated (or am a child 11 years and under) and have symptoms 

Self-isolate immediately and follow the instructions below:

Complete a test immediately, and again at least 72 hours after your last exposure. 

You can only stop isolating if:

  • PCR test: A PCR test collected immediately and another PCR test collected at least 3 days (72 hours) after your last exposure is negative AND you are feeling better (fever has resolved and other symptoms are improving).

OR

  • Rapid tests: A rapid test collected immediately, a second test collected at least 72 hours after exposure and a third rapid test completed 48 hours after that (day 5) are ALL negative AND you are feeling better.

If you do not complete testing, you are required to isolate a full 7 days from the start of your symptoms. 

While you have symptoms, avoid visiting settings such as hospitals or long-term care settings where people are more vulnerable.

Please note: These instructions apply if you can fully self-isolate from the person with COVID-19. If you need or choose to isolate with a positive household member, follow these instructions:  Someone in my household tested positive: What do I do?

If you test positive, you are considered a confirmed case of COVID-19. Please follow these instructions on what actions are needed as a case (i.e., how long to self-isolate and which contacts to notify).

I am a close contact, I’m fully vaccinated (or am a child 11 years and under) and do not have symptoms

You should get tested 72 hours after last exposure and monitor for symptoms.

  • PCR test:  No further testing is needed unless you develop symptoms.
  • You may stop isolating if the PCR test is negative AND you continue to not have any symptoms. 

OR

  • Rapid tests: You should complete a second rapid test 48 hours after the first.
  • You may stop isolating if the first rapid test is negative AND you continue to not have any symptoms.

Until you get your first negative test result (PCR or rapid), you:

  • Should stay at home except to go to school, work, or childcare.
  • Work from home as much as possible.
  • When at work, practice physical distancing including while eating or drinking.
  • Wear a properly fitted, three-layer cloth mask or medical mask outside your home, unless you are exempt. 
  • Follow public health measures including masking guidance in school and child-care settings.
  • Can do essential activities such as getting groceries or prescriptions only if there is nobody else who can do it for them.
  • If symptoms develop, you must isolate fully and get tested.

Please note: 

  • These instructions apply if you can fully self-isolate from the person with COVID-19. 
  • If there is a positive household member, there is a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission than for a regular close contact, even with the positive case is isolating away from you. As a result, you will need to have an additional negative test result before returning to work, school or childcare. You can do this test as soon as you are able. You should still get tested 72 hours after last exposure and monitor for symptoms.
  • If you need or choose to isolate with a positive household member, follow these instructions:  Someone in my household tested positive: What do I do?

I am a close contact, I am not fully vaccinated and 12 years or older, and have symptoms

Self-isolate immediately and follow the instructions below:

Complete a test immediately and then again 6 to 7 days after the last exposure. You can only stop isolating the morning of the 8th day after your last exposure if:

  • PCR tests: A PCR test collected on day 6 or 7 after your last exposure is negative AND you are feeling better (fever has resolved and other symptoms are improving).

OR

  • Rapid tests: Two rapid tests completed 48 hours apart are BOTH negative AND you are feeling better (fever has resolved and other symptoms are improving). The first of the two rapid tests should be collected at least 6 days after your last exposure. The second test should be collected on day 8.

If you do not complete testing, you are required to isolate a full 10 days from your symptom onset.

While you have symptoms, avoid visiting settings such as hospitals or long-term care settings where people are more vulnerable.

Please note: These instructions apply if you can fully self-isolate from the person with COVID-19. If you need or choose to isolate with a positive household member, follow these instructions:  Someone in my household tested positive: What do I do?

If you test positive, you are considered a confirmed case of COVID-19. Please follow these instructions on what actions are needed (i.e., how long to self-isolate and which contacts to notify).

I am a close contact, I am not fully vaccinated and 12 years or older, and do not have symptoms

Isolate immediately for 7 days following your last exposure. You should test at least 72 hours after exposure and again at the end of isolation. You can only stop isolating the morning of the 8th day after your last exposure if:

  • PCR tests: A PCR test collected on day 6 or 7 after your last exposure is negative.

OR

  • Rapid tests: Two rapid tests completed 48 hours apart are BOTH negative. The first of the two rapid tests should be collected at least 6 days after your last exposure. The second test should be collected on day 8.

It is important to continue to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. If symptoms develop, self-isolate and follow instructions above for “I am not fully vaccinated and 12 years or older, and have symptoms”.

Please note: These instructions apply if you can fully self-isolate from the person with COVID-19. If you need or choose to isolate with a positive household member, follow these instructions:  Someone in my household tested positive: What do I do?

If you test positive, you are considered a confirmed case of COVID-19. Please follow these instructions on what actions are needed (i.e., how long to self-isolate and which contacts to notify).

I am a close contact and I am moderately to severely immunocompromised

If you have received a third vaccine dose, please follow the instructions above for “I’m fully vaccinated” based on your symptom status.

If you have NOT received a third vaccine dose, please follow the instructions above for “I am not fully vaccinated” based on your symptom status.

More details on who is considered moderately to severely immunocompromised can be found on this webpage: https://novascotia.ca/CoronaVirus/immunocompromised/

I am a close contact and I work in a high-risk setting

Changes to self-isolation requirements for close contacts (effective Jan. 7, 2022) do not apply to people who work in a high-risk settings, including hospitals, home care, long-term care and corrections facilities. Please follow the direction of your organization’s Occupational Health, Safety and Wellness department.

I have recovered from COVID-19 but have had a new exposure through a close contact

If you have no symptoms, you are not required to isolate. If you have symptoms, please stay home until they have resolved or are improving. Public Health does not recommend testing for individuals recovered within the past 90 days.

If it has been more than 90 days since you recovered from COVID-19 and you have a new exposure, please follow above instructions for testing and isolation based on vaccination and symptom status.