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

⚠ If you have come in contact with someone who has symptoms or has tested positive for COVID-19 on a PCR test or Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) complete this self-isolation determination tool to find out if you need to self-isolate. Looking for guidance? Visit our Information for those who have symptoms, test positive for COVID-19 and high-risk contacts web page.

⚠ How to report out-of-province COVID-19 vaccines.

Last revised on May 10, 2022 

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Be social wise

Even though many restrictions have lifted, we can reduce our risks and  protect ourselves and others by being social wise: 

  • W - Wear a mask or face covering in certain settings, especially indoors when physical distancing may not be possible.  
  • I - Isolate yourself from others when you are sick and if you have COVID-like symptoms.
  • S - Share your enthusiasm with friends and family about being up to date and receiving all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses, including any booster dose(s) and encourage them to get vaccinated.
  • E - Exercise proper hand hygiene; wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizer especially before touching your face.

 In addition to being Social Wise, you can reduce risk further by avoiding or reducing time spent in the 3 C’s:

  • Closed spaces
  • Crowded places
  • Close contact

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

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Gatherings

Please assess your own level of risk and the health of every person in your household, when deciding how to gather and celebrate:

If you are planning to have an in-person gathering, reduce your risk and that of your guests by ensuring your guests are up to date and received all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses, including any booster dose(s). Also consider the risk of those at higher risk of serious outcomes.

  • If hosting a gathering, you can lower your risk of COVID-19 by having it outdoors.
  • If hosting an indoor gathering, reduce your risk by opening windows to ensure proper ventilation.
  • When attending a gathering, always bring your mask with you. There may be times when others will not be comfortable being around maskless people, or they could be at high-risk, and they may ask you to mask-up.
  • Do not gather if you or anyone who planned to be in attendance is sick.
  • If you plan to visit friends/family who are at a higher risk of serious COVID-19 impacts, avoid crowded spaces in the days leading up to your visit.
  • If you are at higher risk of serious COVID-19 impacts, ensure you’re being mindful of your surroundings. If you walk into a restaurant that is very crowded, consider going elsewhere or ordering in. For a crowded grocery or retail store, consider shopping at non-peak times or use curb side pick-up.
How can I reduce the risks of COVID-19 transmission in indoor spaces?  

Exhaled breath, whether from breathing, speaking, singing, shouting, etc., contains a variety of sizes of particles - respiratory droplets or aerosols - some of which are big enough that they fall quickly to the ground and but some of which are small enough that they can stay in the air for various lengths of time.   

COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through direct contact into the mouth, nose, or eyes with the exhaled respiratory droplets or aerosols which carry the virus from an infected person. While ventilation of indoor environments with fresh air provides an important additional layer of protection, the basis of reducing the risk of transmission while indoors continues to be wearing a mask or face covering and ensuring enough space to maintain a distance of two metres (six feet) apart from those outside your household. 

Poor ventilation in indoor spaces is linked to increased transmission of respiratory infections, particularly if the airspace is small. Transmission of COVID-19 has been linked with enclosed spaces, including from people who are infected but are not showing any symptoms of illness. Ventilation with fresh air should be improved whenever possible, e.g., bringing in more fresh air through a properly maintained ventilation system or by opening windows and doors.  

Even when keeping a distance of two or more metres, people should wear a mask if spending time in an enclosed airspace with people not from their household. The longer you are exposed to someone else in an enclosed airspace, the higher your chances are of breathing in that person’s exhaled respiratory droplets. The safest approach is to wear a mask at all times when you are in the same room with someone not from your household. 

How do heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems affect the transmission of COVID-19? 

A well-maintained HVAC system may help reduce transmission of COVID-19 by exchanging indoor air, into which people have exhaled, with fresh outdoor air and by filtering recirculated air.    

Because of mechanical and structural complexity and cost, improved ventilation may need to be a longer-term goal, though adjustments to maximize air exchanges and filtration efficiency within the specifications of the existing HVAC system should be made as soon as possible.    

If possible, consult an HVAC professional to determine:   

  • If your HVAC system is operating properly   

  • If it can be adjusted to increase air exchange   

  • If it is using the most effective type of filters compatible with its system.   

  • If it is suitable for the size of your space and its intended use   

There are also quicker added interventions, such as portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration units but purchase and operating costs must be considered. Note, however, that within a single room, the air blown around by air conditioners or fans may increase the distance over which a virus can be transmitted. To help prevent blowing air from areas in which there may be virus into other areas and to reduce the concentration of virus particles in these areas:   

  • Minimize the use of air conditioners and fans blowing within the room (e.g., by using the lowest setting) 

  • Direct airflow away from surfaces and people (e.g., use a fan by aiming it to exhaust air out a window) 

  • Increase natural ventilation by opening windows if weather permits   

Please note that air conditioners and fans also require regular maintenance, such as:   

  • Surface cleaning, including the blades   

  • Removal of any moisture or water that has collected in portable air conditioners   

  • Filter changes   

  • Other maintenance activities found in manufacturers’ instructions   

Please note: Ventilation must never be considered the main or only means of risk reduction: masking, distancing, barriers, and hand hygiene have more immediate and reliable results. 

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Religious services, rites or ceremonies, including weddings and funerals 

Please visit the COVID-19 Information for Community Partners and Service Providers web page for more information. 

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Spring season activities

Outdoor activities are good for both physical and mental health and usually carry a lower risk of COVID transmission than indoor activities. 

Check out the City of Ottawa's Spring Recreation Activities and Spring Cultural Activities

For more information on City programs and services, visit ottawa.ca or call 3-1-1 (TTY: 613-580-2401). You can also connect with us through FacebookTwitter and Instagram

Please consider your own risk factors before participating in any outdoor group activity. For an older person or someone with chronic medical problems, the best decision may be to focus on individual activities, like walking. 

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Mental health 

Reach out to loved ones who may feel alone and show them you care. It’s ok to not be ok. Reach out for supportCheck out these tips and strategies on how to stay mentally healthy during the pandemic.

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Contact Information

Provincial Vaccine Information Line

  • 7 days a week, from 8 am to 8 pm
  • Call if you have questions about Ontario's COVID-19 vaccination program.
  • Service is available in multiple languages.
  • Telephone: 1-888-999-6488
  • TTY: 1-866-797-0007

Ottawa Public Health Vaccine Booking Line

  • Monday to Friday, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
  • Translation is available in multiple languages
  • Telephone: 613-691-5505

Ottawa Public Health COVID-19 Telephone Line

Victoria Day schedule changes for Monday, May 23 - The Ottawa Public Health Information Centre and COVID-19 Information Line will be closed.

  • Monday to Friday, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
  • Translation is available in multiple languages
  • Telephone: 613-580-6744 follow the prompts to the COVID-19 telephone line
  • TTY: 613-580-9656

Emergency Services

  • If you are in distress (e.g., significant trouble breathing, chest pain, fainting or have a significant worsening of any chronic disease symptoms), do not go to the Assessment Centre or a COVID-19 Care clinic. Go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 9-1-1.

How to access help during COVID-19

  • 211 Ontario can help you find financial and social support during COVID-19
  • Telephone: 2-1-1

Related Information

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