Skip to main content Skip to sitemap
Hastings and Prince Edward Public Health

Understanding COVID-19 Outbreaks

Last updated: December 22, 2021

What is a COVID-19 Outbreak?

We understand that, when cases occur in public settings or workplaces, residents may be curious or concerned about the potential of an outbreak. HPEPH follows provincial guidance regarding COVID-19 outbreaks.

We declare an outbreak when there is evidence of COVID-19 transmission (spread) spread within the establishment.

For there to be reasonable evidence of spread in the establishment, at least two cases of COVID-19 are identified within the establishment. While provincial guidance differs depending on the setting, at least one case must have been acquired within the establishment. In acute care and long term care settings, to declare an outbreak both cases could have reasonably acquired within the establishment.

To determine if a case could have been reasonably acquired within the establishment, public health completes an investigation to find out if the individual could have been exposed to COVID-19 through another known source. If there is no other known source, public health concludes that the individual could have reasonably acquired COVID-19 within the establishment.

This investigation begins in less than 24 hours after we are notified of the positive case, and depending on the complexity of the situation, can take a few days to complete.

What is a community outbreak?

A community outbreak is defined as multiple cases impacting several linked locations in the community and/or in populations impacted by shared risk factors. A community outbreak is not necessarily limited to one location/establishment.

Cases come from at least two different households/living spaces and at least two cases share an epidemiological link (e.g., connection in person, place, and time) in the community setting within a 14-day period where at least four of the cases could have reasonably acquired their infection in the setting.

Affected populations may share a common social group, community, neighbourhood, event, team, or multi-unit dwelling.

In certain situations, affected populations may share common social determinants of health which place them at increased risk.

Why does HPEPH report some outbreaks and not others?

In alignment with current provincial guidance, HPEPH is following exposures to COVID-19 in high-risk settings including schools, LTC and retirement homes, hospitals, and congregate living settings. As a result, our ability to identify outbreaks in other settings (e.g. workplaces, retail, restaurants) is severely limited. While the HPEPH dashboard is now reporting outbreaks only in the settings above, it is important to recognize this may not accurately reflect the number of outbreaks in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties.

Interested in receiving monthly updates about HPEPH programs and services?

Sign up for our e-newsletter


Symptoms or exposure? Visit for the most up to date information about what to do.

For the most up to date information on current provincial restrictions, visit

The Ministry of Health has launched a new toll-free line as an additional resource to help answer questions from the public regarding evolving COVID-19 testing and isolation guidance. The line can be reached at 1-888-777-0730, and is available from 8 am to 6 pm, 7 days a week.


Appointments for individuals 5+ can be booked through the provincial vaccine booking site, or by calling 1-833-943-3900 from 8 am to 8 pm, 7 days a week.  Visit the HPEPH vaccine booking web page for details.