Be Social Wise - Guidance for Social Gatherings During COVID-19

Last revised on November 25, 2020

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Be social wise year-round  

While some people are more vulnerable to complications from COVID-19, we are all susceptible of getting COVID-19 and spreading it to others.  

We understand that the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is real.  But if you are Social Wise, the only thing you will miss out on is getting sick and getting others sick.  Be Social Wise: 

  • W - Wear a mask or face covering where required, or when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres (six feet).  

  • I - Isolate yourself from others when you are sick and get tested promptly if you have COVID-19 like symptoms.  

  • S - Stay two metres (six feet) apart from those outside your household or your chosen social support person(s).

  • E - Exercise proper hand hygiene; wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizer especially before touching your face. 

  • Have your mask and hand sanitizer with you at all times.

Be social wise during holidays and celebrations

Due to the high number of people testing positive for COVID-19, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) recommends keeping the number of people you interact with small:  those in your household plus essential supports. For social gatherings, this can include limiting gatherings to those who live in your household and those providing essential support services such as a caregiver.  If you live alone (single parent, student, etc.), one or two contacts outside your home can be important social supports to draw on.   

Holidays and celebrations are going to look and feel different during the COVID-19 pandemic. All individuals should assess their own level of risk, and the health of every person in their household, when deciding how to celebrate. If anyone in your household is at higher risk from COVID-19, everyone should choose lower risk activities to keep them safe.  

Some things to note before you start planning:  

  • Current provincial gathering limits are 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.  

  • These limits cannot be combined (for example: it is NOT permitted to host 35 people, with 25 people outdoors and 10 people indoors).   

In addition to older adults, people who have serious underlying medical conditions (such as: cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic lung disease, chronic liver disease, cancer, are immunocompromised) are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.  

Be in the know about COVID-19 levels in our community.  

Try these tips below to lower the risk of COVID-19 during holidays and celebrations:  

Celebrating the holiday season

The holiday season is right around the corner and the hope of celebrating with family and friends can be felt.  Unfortunately, COVID-19 is still very present in our local community, therefore, Ottawa Public Health recommends finding memorable ways to celebrate that will keep you and your loved ones as safe as possible.  Some suggestions include: 

  • Surprise your loved ones by sending a gift such as yummy home-baked cookies, a cozy knitted scarf, a lovely craft or holiday-themed masks. 

  • Write a few heart-felt words in a card and mail it to your family/friends. It can be wonderful to receive a hand-written card in the mail in this age of technology. 

  • Make a video with you and/or a member of your household playing guitar, piano, drums, etc and/or singing If you don’t play an instrument, make a warm and fun holiday-themed video that you can share.  If you have children, involve them in the fun by having them sing, dance, rap, etc. 

  • Open gifts during a video call with family or friends. 

  • Set up a time to share a meal virtually and show-off your perfect festive outfit, food creations, share jokes and stories and give good cheer.   

  • If it's in your tradition to sing songs or play games with your loved ones, sing or play together virtually. 

  • Set up a virtual Zoom Karaoke night or virtual dance party with your friends and sing and/or dance “together” to bring in the new year. 

  • Go on a virtual group walk after dinner or brunch and share the beautiful Christmas lights and other bright and fun sights in your neighborhood.    

  • Organize a car train (everyone in their own cars) to go see the Christmas lights. 

  • Create new traditions for a safer holiday. How will you celebrate differently and more safely? Let us know on our Engage Ottawa site 

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Hosting a gathering

Consider hosting a virtual holiday gathering this year; set up a phone, tablet or laptop around the dinner table to connect with those outside your household and/or your chosen social support person(s). 

At the moment, Ottawa Public Health does not recommend hosting an in-person gathering unless you live alone as you may then want to gather with one or two friends or loved ones from one other household for social support. If those are your circumstances, below are tips to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19:  

  • Remind your guests to follow the recommended practices for protecting themselves and others. 

  • Wash your hands frequently.  

  • Wear a mask. 

  • Stay two metres apart.  

  • Keep the length of the gathering short. 

  • Consider hosting your gathering between or after meals. 

  • Avoid buffet-style or family-style (passing food items from person to person) approaches to meals. 

  • If you start to feel symptoms of COVID-19, and are hosting a gathering, cancel or postpone to a later date or until you have tested negative and you have not had any symptoms of COVID-19 for at least 24 hours. 

  • If one of your guests has symptoms during or after your gathering, have the guest safely leave your gathering. Clean and disinfect all areas the guest may have come in contact with and inform everyone in attendance so they can monitor themselves for symptoms. Consult with an OPH authority for further advice.

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Attending a gathering 

Consider attending a holiday gathering virtually this year; set up a phone, tablet or laptop around the dinner table with those outside your household and/or your chosen social support person(s).
Currently, Ottawa Public Health does not recommend attending a gathering unless you live alone as you may want to gather with one or two friends or one other household for social support. If those are your circumstances, below are tips to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19:

  • If you plan on attending a holiday gathering and start to feel symptoms of COVID-19, cancel. Get tested for COVID-19 and self-isolate.
  • Wear a mask at all times.
  • Stay two metres (six feet) apart from those outside your household or your chosen social support person(s).
  • Make your attendance at a gathering as short as possible.
  • Wash your hands regularly and use hand sanitizer often.
  • Don’t share food and drinks.
  • Avoid touching objects as much as possible.
  • When you go to the washroom, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer and make sure you don’t touch your face or your mouth with your hands.
  • Avoid hugging, kissing and shaking hands.
  • Ask the host if they will be putting COVID-19 prevention measures in place. When in doubt, sit it out.

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Shopping

  • If possible, consider shopping online.  

  • If shopping in person:  

    • Plan ahead; go during non-peak hours. 

    • Go alone or limit the number of people you shop.  Only shop with those in your household and/or your chosen social support person(s). 

    • Put your mask on before entering the store; sanitize your hands before handling your mask and after taking your mask off. 

    • Maintain a physical distance of two meters (six feet) from other shoppers and minimize the number of stores you visit.    

    • Please be patient and kind. Our local businesses are working hard so you can get your holiday shopping done. 

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Travelling 

At the moment, Ottawa Public does not recommend travelling outside our region during the holiday season and/or other celebrations.

If you have to travel for business or other essential reasons, here is some travel-related information to consider:

  • Monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and do not travel if you are sick.
  • If anyone in your household develops symptoms of COVID-19, that person needs to stay home, self-isolate and get tested. All other household members will also need to isolate until that individual has tested negative for COVID-19.
  • Remember that COVID-19 can have minimal or no symptoms and yet be transmissible to others. If you have been in close contact with others without physical distancing or wearing a mask in the two weeks before your visit, you could be putting your loved ones at risk.
  • Remember that older individuals, and those with chronic health conditions, may be more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 related complications.
  • That you may have to self-isolate upon your arrival and return if you've travelled outside of Canada.
  • The level of COVID-19 in both your community and your destination’s community, as well as any risks and travel restrictions.
  • The Government of Canada’s compiled list of Canadian provincial and territorial COVID-19 information page and global travel advisories.

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Winter season activities 

Instead of an indoor holiday gathering, take advantage of our great Canadian seasons and enjoy a holiday walk, skate, ski or snowshoe with loved ones.  

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Mental health 

This year, holidays might make some feel more alone than usual. Reach out to loved ones who may feel alone this year and show them you care. If you have access to technology such as video conferencing, please use it to share some smiles.
The holidays may be a happy time for some, but for others they can be a struggle. It’s OK to not be OK. Reach out for supportCheck out these tips and strategies on how to stay mentally healthy during the winter.
Right now, the whole world could use a hug, but give the gift of safety. Avoid hugging and embracing those outside your household. For those living alone, avoid hugging and embracing anyone who is not your chosen social support person(s). It is your safest choice. If you still choose to hug, you may help to reduce the risk by:

  • Wearing a mask
  • Avoiding face-to-face or cheek-to-cheek contact
  • Keeping it short and sweet
  • Washing your hands before and after hugging
  • Allowing children to hug you around your waist or knees

Remember that older adults and those who have chronic illnesses are at higher risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19.
Note: If you have been exposed to COVID-19 and need to self-isolate or if you have any symptoms that could be from COVID-19, please do not put others at risk by visiting or hugging.

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Birthdays

All celebrations are going to look and feel different during the COVID-19 pandemic. When celebrating birthdays, please:

  • Limit gatherings to those who live in your household and plus up to 1 or 2 essential support person(s) such as a caregiver.
  • Invite others to participate virtually. Set up a phone, tablet or laptop to connect with those outside your household.
  • Try creating new traditions – plan a fun outdoor activity like a scavenger hunt or a hike or bike ride.
  • Give the gift of safety. Consider a drive-by celebration that everyone can take part in! If dropping off gifts or cards, please stay two metres (6 feet) apart from those outside your household.

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Indoor Weddings and Receptions

All celebrations, including weddings, are going to look and feel different during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before planning your wedding, please consult the safety measures that need to be followed by you and your guests: 

It is very important to follow these safety measures:  A real world Contact Tracing example - Wedding Cluster (pdf- 19.7MB).

Infographic showing a wedding example

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COVID-19 guidance for special events

Please read OPH’s COVID-19 Guidance for Special Events

Questions and proposals related to event formats permissible under Provincial Orders, including drive-in and drive-thru events, can be directed to EventCentral@ottawa.ca. 

To report a mass gathering, please contact 3-1-1 for assistance. 

Ottawa Public Health continues to advise that limiting activities to members of your own household and/or your chosen social support person(s) remains important to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to save lives. Stay two metres (6 feet) apart from those outside your household or your chosen social support person(s).

PLEASE NOTE: Effective October 10, 2020 the Province of Ontario has placed further restrictions on social gatherings, events and other establishments. 

  • Outdoor gatherings are now restricted to a maximum of 25 people and indoor gatherings are now restricted to maximum of 10 people (where physical distancing can be maintained).  

  • Capacity limits also reduced to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors for tour guide services, real estate open houses, meeting and event spaces, in-person teaching and instruction where physical distancing can be maintained (with exemptions for schools, childcare centres, colleges, etc.).  

  • Indoor and outdoor events or gatherings cannot be merged together (ex. gathering of 35 people, with 25 people outdoors and 10 people indoors is not permissible).  

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