If your patient is calling about COVID-19 symptoms:

If your patient wants or needs to get a COVID-19 test:

Patients can also book a test by calling 289-778-1465, then press 2

Updated February 19, 2021

Ontario has updated testing guidelines to prioritize those who are at the greatest risk, while shifting away from untargeted asymptomatic testing, and reducing the number of symptoms on the screen guidance algorithm that triggers testing for children in school or daycare. There is also clear guidance for enabling early return to school/daycare without testing for children who do not match the screening algorithm.

Patients should be referred to assessment centres for testing if they are:

  1. Showing COVID-19 symptoms (note symptom algorithms for adults and childen below);
  2. Have been exposed to a confirmed case of the virus, as informed by your public health unit or exposure notification through the COVID Alert app;
  3. A resident or work in a setting that has a COVID-19 outbreak, as identified and informed by our local public health unit
  4. Eligible for testing as part of a targeted testing initiative directed by the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Long-Term Care.

Other people who are not showing symptoms and not eligible for testing as part of groups 2-4 can get tested for COVID-19 at select pharmacies. To find the closest pharmacy, visit Ontario.ca/covidtest.

Current Symptom Reference lists

The Ontario Ministry of Health Reference Document for Symptoms

Summary screening algorithm

COVID-19 Patient Screen Guidance (adults)

Changes were made to the provincial COVID-19 school and child care screening criteria on Feb 16 2021as a response to emerging “Variants of Concern:

Single-symptom screening

Staff, students and children with any new or worsening symptom of COVID-19, even those with only one symptom, must stay home until:

  • They receive a negative COVID-19 test result;
  • They receive an alternative diagnosis by a health care professional; or
  • It has been 10 days since their symptom onset and they are feeling better.

New isolation requirement for household contacts of symptomatic individuals in response to emerging “variants of concern”

All asymptomatic household contacts of symptomatic individuals are required to quarantine until the symptomatic individual receives a negative COVID-19 test result or an alternative diagnosis by a health care professional. If the symptomatic individual does not seek COVID-19 testing, all household contacts must quarantine for 14 days from their last contact with that symptomatic individual.

The criteria for testing in the Screen Guidance below has been superseded by this advice, and an undated version of the COVID-19 Patient Screen Guidance will be provided by the Ministry shortly and will be updated here when it becomes available)

COVID-19 Patient Screen Guidance (children in school or daycare)

Significant symptoms  outlined in the symptom algorithm in the “Patient Screen Guidance” above include new or worsening cough, fever (>37.8), shortness of breath (even when not active), change in taste or smell, loss of smell or taste, chills, new onset muscle aches and fatigue. People may also report unexplained or significant headache, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, pink eye, runny nose or nasal congestion without other known cause, abdominal pain, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea.

Be on the lookout for atypical symptoms  in children, seniors >70years, and people living with a developmental disability. These may include delirium, unexplained or increase in falls, acute functional decline, exacerbation of chronic conditions.  Symptoms and signs in young children may include lethargy and/or decreased feeding (if no other diagnosis), croup and unexplained tachycardia (using age specific tachycardia reference ranges for children). Children have also been reported as presenting with lesions on extremities resembling chilblains / pernio, and rarely with atypical Kawasaki disease (Multisystem inflammatory vasculitis).  

Read the full provincial testing criteria

Read more about pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission from the CEP here.

A patient who screens positive for symptoms of COVID-19 over the phone should be offered a telephone consultation (see Ministry of Health Guidance to Primary Care 09/11/2020) with a primary care provider ideally on the same day, and advised to start self isolating immediately. This discussion should include a thorough history-taking and assessment of symptoms and managing them (see Step by Step guidance in Assessment and Management of COVID).

New isolation requirement for household contacts of symptomatic individuals in response to emerging “variants of concern”

All asymptomatic household contacts of symptomatic individuals are required to quarantine until the symptomatic individual receives a negative COVID-19 test result or an alternative diagnosis by a health care professional. If the symptomatic individual does not seek COVID-19 testing, all household contacts must quarantine for 14 days from their last contact with that symptomatic individual.

Because significant surge in demand for COVID-19 tests resulting long line-ups at testing centres and the increase in phone calls to the public health line, all COVID-19 assessment and testing centres have moved to online booking for prebooked appointments.  Patients can learn more about testing and assessment centres, and how to book an appointment for testing by visiting www.hamilton.ca/coronavirus/assessment-centres.

To support this move to online booking and prioritizing patients at greatest risk, the number of walk-ins tested at the assessment centres will be limited, and residents who come to a testing centre without an appointment may be asked to book one online.

The Public Health Services COVID-19 booking line will remain available for those who do not have access to book online and those who have accessibility needs. Public Health Services’ COVID-19 Hotline is 905-974-9848.

At this point in time, same day testing cannot be guaranteed. Our local testing centres are at maximal capacity and we anticipate lower priority individuals will be waiting 4 days or more for their appointment.  Patient should immediately self-isolate pending test results. Please help patients to understand the need for pre-registration and online booked appointments.

It is essential that we all reinforce that appointments are required.

If your patient qualifies for COVID 19 Testing and is a community-based health care worker, first responder, a child under the age of 4, or is unable to access the mountain drive through testing site, they will book at St Joe’s Assessment centre. (Health care workers within either hospital system will continue to access testing through their occupational health services). Hours 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm, Monday to Friday, Weekends 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.

Any patient who screens positive and is not part of the groups mentioned in  #1 may book at any centre.

The drive through site site is located within the Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena, 25 Hester Street.  (just off Upper James and south of Mohawk). The hours of operation are 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. The drive through testing site cannot provide testing for children under the age of 4 or those who arrive on foot and these should be routed to the St Joes East End Assessment centre as above

The physicians’ telephone access to PH and SJHH King Street remain but the ability to answer calls is seriously challenged at present. *see hfam email May 19 for family physician numbers for Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena and St Joe’s Assessment Centre * 

*note backline numbers cannot be included in this open website. If you need the email to be resent, please send your request to Lisa Waite, (lwaite@stjosham.on.ca)

Public health continues to contact all people with positive results.  If their screening process indicates extra significance to a negative result (e.g., a person living in a shelter), those people may also be contacted.  People who have been tested and have a health card can access the portal for their results.  (OLIS and Clinical Connect may also be used by providers seeking results. 

Guidance on clearance can be found here:

A recent practice pointer article from the BMJ provided useful “what you need to know” summary for interpreting test results in primary care:  

  • Interpreting the result of a test for covid-19 depends on two things: the accuracy of the test, and the pre-test probability or estimated risk of disease before testing  
  • A positive RT-PCR test for covid-19 test has more weight than a negative test because of the test’s high specificity but moderate sensitivity  
  • A single negative covid-19 test should not be used as a rule-out in patients with strongly suggestive symptoms  
  • Clinicians should share information with patients about the accuracy of covid-19 tests 

COVID-19 Serology has application in only limited clinical circumstances. This guidance document (updated July 2020) describes these and how to obtain serology


Public Health Services (289-778-1465) will continue to connect vulnerable individuals in need of support with the City Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to facilitate the following:

  • Emergency food delivery for those in self isolation or deemed medically vulnerable who have no other supports such as friends, family or neighbours to assist.
  • Delivery of masks and gloves to individuals identified by PH as COVID positive
  • Arranging transportation to the assessment centres via DARTS for individuals requiring testing for COVID-19

If a patient is homebound,  EMS can do the swab – call Public Health testing number, and it can be arranged.

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