COVID-19 Testing Guidance

SWPH recommends local Assessment Centres and Primary Care provider follow this testing criteria developed by consensus consultation with PaLM, local Emergency Department and Assessment Centre leads, and Primary Care leads.

Please also continue to refer to the COVID-19 Testing Guidance and Testing Directive Memo from the Ontario Ministry of Health. These recommendation are to be considered in association with the PaLM lab criteria.

COVID-19 Impacted Areas in Canada

Continue to consider exposures due to travel or work-related exposures in impacted areas locally or across the country

Summary of testing guidelines (as of May 25, 2020):

Testing should be performed on individuals who fall into these categories. 
Refer to the Ministry of Health Testing Guidance  and Testing Directive Memo for full details.

As of May 25, 2020, testing is available for:

- People with at least one symptom or sign1 of COVID-19, using clinical judgment, even mild symptoms

- People who are concerned they have been exposed to COVID-19

- People who are at risk of exposure to COVID-19 through their employment (e.g. health care workers, grocery store employees, food processing plants)


NOTE: Testing processes are defined by each Assessment Centre (e.g. appointment vs. walk-in)

Those who are or will be hospitalized, including:

- Hospitalized patients prior to transfer to an institution falling under the Long-Term Care Homes Act or the Retirement Homes Act, or other congregate living settings and institutions or hospice settings (results must be received prior to transfer)


- Hospital specific testing criteria


Symptomatic1 patients/residents living in Long-Term Care and Retirement Homes, and asymptomatic residents living in the same room as a symptomatic resident



In the event of an outbreak in a Long-Term Care or Retirement Home, in consultation with public health, testing should include asymptomatic contacts of a confirmed case, including: 


- all residents living in adjacent rooms 


- all staff working on the unit/carehub 


- all essential visitors that attended at the unit/carehub


- any other contacts deemed appropriate based on a risk assessment by public health


Symptomatic1health care workers, caregivers, care providers, first responders, and their household or close regular contacts

Those living or working in congregate settings who experience any one symptom or sign1 of COVID-19 and asymptomatic patients transferred from a hospital or hospice setting prior to transfer

Symptomatic1community/ambulatory patients, based on clinical judgment

Symptomatic1 remote/isolated/rural/Indigenous communities




In the event of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a remote/isolated/rural/Indigenous community, testing should be in consultation with public health. 

Those directed at the discretion of Southwestern Public Health, such as: 


- Asymptomatic long-term care home or retirement home residents and staff, once a positive case has been identified, including recently-deceased residents who were present during an outbreak but not previously tested.


- Part of an investigation of an outbreak or cluster


- Sentinel surveillance in community ambulatory with very high clinical suspicion 

1Using clinical judgment, individuals who are experiencing any one of the following symptoms and signs compatible with COVID-19:

  • Common symptoms, including fever (temperatures of 37.8°C or greater), new or worsening cough, or shortness of breath; OR

  • Other symptoms, including sore throat, difficulty swallowing, new olfactory or taste disorder(s), nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or runny nose or nasal congestion (in absence of other underlying reasons such as allergies, post nasal drip, etc.); OR

  • Other signs, including clinical or radiological evidence of pneumonia; OR
  • Atypical presentations of COVID-19 should be considered, particularly in children, older persons, and people living with developmental disability.

Refer to the Ministry of Health COVID-19 Reference Document for Symptoms for atypical signs/symptoms. ​​​

COVID-19 Sample Collection

Last Updated: May 26, 2020