Testing is expanded to all respiratory or systemic symptoms compatible with COVID-19. 

Gastrointestinal symptoms removed from symptom list; rarely present as only symptom.

Guidance for COVID-19 Testing by Nucleic Acid Tests (NATs)

  1. Test all individuals with new respiratory or systemic symptoms compatible with COVID-19, however mild. Symptoms may include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, odynophagia, rhinorrhea, nasal congestion, loss of sense of smell, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, or loss of appetite.

  2. Individuals in the following groups should be prioritized for testing:
    • Residents and staff of long term care facilities
    • Individuals requiring admission to hospital or likely to be admitted, such as pregnant individuals near term, patients on hemodialysis, or cancer patients receiving radiation or chemotherapy
    • Health care workers
    • Individuals with a higher probability of being infected with COVID-19 such as contacts of a known case of COVID-19 and travellers just returned to Canada
    • Residents of remote, isolated, or Indigenous communities
    • People living in congregate settings such as work-camps, correctional facilities, shelters, group homes, assisted living and seniors’ residences
    • People who are homeless or have unstable housing
    • Essential service providers, such as first responders
  3. Health care providers can order a COVID-19 test for any patient based on their clinical judgment.

  4. COVID-19 testing is not recommended for individuals without symptoms.

  5. The Medical Health Officer may recommend testing for others, such as those who are part of an investigation of a cluster or outbreak.
    *Please do not refuse testing for patients sent in by Public Health regardless of their symptom profile.

Changes will ensure timely identification and follow-up of new infections and their contacts. 

Guidelines updated based on changing epidemiology, testing capacity, and evolving understanding of test sensitivity in clinical settings.

Specimen Labelling
Please add one of the following codes to the specimen label:

  • HCW1 – Health Care Worker – Direct Care
  • HCW2 – Health Care Worker – Non Direct Care
  • LTC – Long Term Care Facility
  • OBK – Outbreaks, clusters, or case contacts
  • HOS – Hospitalized
  • CMM – Community or Outpatient, including Urgent and Primary Care Centers
  • CGT – People living in congregate settings such as work-camps, correctional facilities, shelters, group homes, assisted living and seniors’ residences. 

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