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

⚠ Our community clinics are open for drop-ins to everyone eligible for a first dose, second dose and booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

New information for those who have symptoms, test positive for COVID-19 and high-risk contacts.

⚠ New COVID-19 school and child care screening tool

Last revised on January 19, 2022 

On this page: 


NOTE: Due to the rapid increase in people testing positive for COVID-19 in our community, OPH is strongly recommending that everyone:  

  • Keep gatherings as small as possible.
  • Limit the number of people you come into close contact with.
  • Not participate in all indoor sports and team play for the time being.   
  • Not attend large venues and avoid crowds. If you do choose to attend an event, wear a mask at all times. 

Please see the tips below for hosting and/or attending outdoor and indoor holiday season gatherings celebrations:  

Outdoor gatherings 

Please refer to the most recent Ontario Regulations for current rules, regulations, and guidance. Permissions will vary depending on where the event or gathering will take place. 

If you choose to hold or participate in an in-person gathering or event with people outside your household, here are some tips to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission: 

  • When gathering outdoors with a group of fully vaccinated individuals, no mask or physical distancing is necessary. 
  • When gathering outdoors with people from multiple households who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or vaccination status is unknown, you should consider wearing a mask if physical distancing cannot be maintained. 
  • Stay home if you are feeling ill, even with mild symptoms, or if you are in quarantine or self-isolating. 
  • Avoid high-touch surfaces and wash your hands well and often and or use hand sanitizer. 

Outdoor activities are a safer option:  we can go for a winter walk or hike, skate, ski or build a snowman.  Keep in mind, that you can still catch the virus outdoors and that the virus survives better when temperatures are colder and when there is less sunlight. 

Indoor gatherings 

Virtual gatherings or events are the safest way to celebrate, especially if people in the group are unvaccinated, if their vaccination status is unknown, if you are immunocompromised or at higher risk of severe disease and/or exposure to COVID-19.  

If you choose to host an indoor gathering in your home, below are tips to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19:   

  • If you are gathering as a group of fully vaccinated individuals, you may consider removing your mask if everyone is comfortable. 
  • If you are gathering with people from multiple households who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or status is unknown, you should wear a mask and physically distance. 
  • Regardless of the setting, you can wear a mask and physically distance if you feel it is right for you, especially if you or others are immunocompromised or at high-risk of severe disease and/or exposure to COVID-19. 
  • Remind your guests to follow the recommended practices for protecting themselves and others. 
  • Wash your hands frequently.  
  • Open windows, if possible. 
  • 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 OPH for further advice.  

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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. 

Attending a gathering 

Please refer to the most recent Ontario Regulations for current rules, regulations, and guidance. Permissions will vary depending on where the event or gathering will take place. If you choose to attend a gathering, below are tips to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19: 

  • If you plan on attending a gathering and start to feel symptoms of COVID-19, cancel. If you plan on attending a gathering and start to feel symptoms of COVID-19, cancel.  Presume you have COVID-19 and self-isolate. Consult the COVID-19 Testing Information page to find out if you are eligible for PCR testing.
  • Wash your hands regularly and use hand sanitizer often. 
  • 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. 
  • Ask the host if they will be putting COVID-19 prevention measures in place. When in doubt, sit it out. 
  • Remember that older adults and those who have chronic illnesses are at higher risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19. 
  • 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. 

Be social wise while we build community immunity  

Remember that until enough people are immunized against COVID-19, we still must follow social wise public health guidelines to protect ourselves and others. Even those who are fully vaccinated will need to:

  • W - Wear a mask or face covering where required or when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres (six feet).
  • - 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 fully vaccinated and encourage them to get vaccinated.
  • - 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

Please refer to the most recent Ontario Regulations for current rules, regulations, and guidance. Permissions will vary depending on where the event or gathering will take place.

Gathering 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.  

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.  

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Special events toolkit

We appreciate the role that community events play in the overall health and well-being within our City. To support special event organizers, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) worked in partnership with the City of Ottawa’s Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development and Event Central departments to develop this Special Event Toolkit. In this toolkit, you will find key resources including signage, tools, information, and guidance documents that can support you in organizing and hosting Social Wise special events, subject to the direction from the  Province of Ontario

It is important to note that although measures can be taken to ensure participation is as safe as possible, there will still be a risk for COVID-19 when attending an in-person event. In light of the continued transmission within our community, it is important to remind everyone involved that they have a role to play in reducing risks, that it is imperative that they know/understand the risks and choose safer options, and that remaining Social Wise when planning and choosing to participate in activities outside the home remains of the utmost importance.  

Visit this toolkit as well as the City’s Event Central webpage for details on hosting and organizing Social-Wise outdoor special events.   

Provincial and local requirements

Ottawa Public Health encourages all organizations to implement their own internal policies (that align with the Provincial and local regulations) for the protection of their staff, volunteers and guests attending the special event. Please consult the following requirements and recommendations and refer to them when developing your event proposal.

Provincial Regulations and local public health requirements:  

Safety Plans:


For support or further information regarding the interpretation of the regulations (O. Reg. 364/20), please consult the  with our colleagues in Bylaw and Regulatory Services for additional details by calling 3-1-1, option 8.   

Guidance, tools, and support for implementing the requirements

Operational Guide for Special Events (pdf - 472 KB) 

  • Find information, tools and resources to help you implement Provincial and local requirements, including vaccination policies as well as additional public health measures that can help reduce the risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19.  

Safety Plan Checklist for Special Events (pdf -300 KB) 

Developing a workplace vaccination policy   

  • Ottawa Public Health strongly recommends that Ottawa employers implement workplace vaccination policies to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.  

  • Ottawa Public Health has released a how-to guide to assist employers in the development and implementation of their workplace vaccination policies.   

Sample social media messages for event organizers and hosts

We encourage you to share these sample social media messages and graphics on your social media channels ahead of your special event to:  

  • Remind guests of the importance of vaccination,  

  • Share information on where to get vaccinated and,  

  • Remind guests about your vaccine passport requirements, if applicable.   

You can find several graphics available for download that you can add to your posts here.   

For all events, regardless of need to ask for proof of vaccination: 

  • Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 helps make events like [insert event name] happen by keeping our community healthy and safer. Learn more at #CommunityImmunity. 

  • Getting your vaccine is now easier than ever! Drop-in vaccinations are available for those eligible for first, second or third doses. Find a vaccination site near you by using OPH’s online search tool: #CommunityImmunity. 

  • It’s normal to have questions about COVID-19 vaccines. Misinformation is out there. Get the facts from @OttawaHealth:


For events that require proof of vaccination: 

  • Proof of vaccination is now necessary for patrons to attend [insert event name]. Please plan to be fully vaccinated two weeks before [insert event name]. Drop-in appointments are available at all clinics, find one near you: #CommunityImmunity. 

  • We’re proud to support #CommunityImmunity efforts in Ottawa! Learn more about where to get your COVID-19 vaccine. Drop-ins are welcome at all clinics or make an appointment at:

  • #CommunityImmunity. It starts with us! Book your vaccine appointment today so that we can see you at [insert event name]. Remember, you need to be fully vaccinated two weeks before the event. Book your appointment or drop in today:

  • You will need to show proof of vaccination, and proof of identification, before attending [insert event name]. You can download your vaccine receipt from Ontario’s provincial booking portal, or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900. #CommunityImmunity.  

  • Learn how to get and use your vaccine receipt before you come to [insert event name]. 

We also encourage you to share content from Ottawa Public Health’s social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

Submitting event documentation

Event Central is available to assist special event organizers in determining what approvals are required for their event. If the event occurs outdoors and has an anticipated attendance of 500 participants or more at one time, a Special Event Application is required. Applications for special events must comply with current Provincial regulations and local health guidelines. 

No matter the size of your event, Event Central is available to liaise with event organizers on modified or smaller special events that do not meet the requirements of the Special Events on Public and Private Property By-law No. 2013-232, but do comply with updated provincial regulations. The Special Events Advisory Team, comprised of multiple City Departments including Ottawa Public Health, will be available to review event proposals, provide guidance, and issue permits or licences to support these activities if required. Visit Event Central’s webpage to learn more about planning outdoor special events in Ottawa. 

Food and drink safety

Event organizers must comply with the general public health measures, venue-specific regulations, and gathering limits outlined in Ontario Regulation 364/20. In addition, vendors engaged in onsite food/beverage preparation in temporary establishments (e.g. tents/booths) at special events must comply withO. Reg. 493/17: Food Premises; including, but not limited to: the provision of a handwashing station for food handlers which is adequately supplied with hot and cold running water, an enclosed waste collection tank, liquid soap in a dispenser and paper towels. 

All food vendors that attend a special event must complete and submit the Application Form for Food Service at a Special Event, to Ottawa Public Health at least two (2) weeks prior to the event. Once the completed application form has been received, it will be reviewed by a Public Health Inspector (PHI). If required, a PHI may contact you to discuss safe food practices specific to your temporary food premises. Visit the Ottawa Public Health website - Requirements for Food Vendors at Special Events - to familiarize yourself with the food safety  requirements of special events.

Party Safer

Event organizers are encouraged to include Party Safer planning and messaging surrounding the use of substances and violence prevention as they plan and host their event. Information on Party Safer tips and strategies are available through Ottawa Public Health (OPH) websites:

Examples of Party Safer planning include:

  • Prior to the event, organizers can:
    • Promote these websites as well as Party Safer messaging through their social media channels.
    • Reach out to OPH to discuss availability of training (i.e. how to ID an OD, naloxone, violence prevention, mental health) for themselves, their staff, and volunteers. Ensure that staff and volunteers are aware of the opportunity for them to attend these no cost virtual trainings sessions.
Guests are encouraged to visit the websites, promote the Party Safer messages and practice Party Safer tips.
Key resources and signage

Required signage 

Staff and volunteer screening tools 

Customer screening tools: 

Operational Guidance  

Additional resources  

Additional signage: 


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

  • Please refer to the most recent Ontario Regulations for current rules, regulations, and guidance. Permissions will vary depending on where the event or gathering will take place.
  • Try creating new traditions:
    • Plan a fun outdoor activity like a scavenger hunt or a hike or bike ride.
    • Bake a little “candle cake”, separate from the big one for the person celebrating their special day, rather than blowing out candles on the cake that everyone will share or prepare individual cup cakes with a candle just on the one "candle cupcake".

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Winter season activities

Outdoor activities are good for both physical and mental health and usually carry a lower risk of COVID transmission than indoor activities. Lower the risk of COVID-19 with some of the alternatives below.  

Lower risk options:

  • Walking, running, snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing
  • Building a snowman
  • Skating at your community rink
  • Personal hobbies such as bird watching, stargazing, painting, nature journaling, and photography

Please note:  

Please refer to the most recent Ontario Regulations for current rules, regulations, and guidance. Permissions will vary depending on where the event or gathering will take place. Ottawa Public Health highly recommends wearing a mask for outdoor recreational activities that do not allow you to keep a two metre (six feet) distance from others.

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

For more information on City programs and services, visit 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. 

Useful Links:

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NEW:  Please check the Government of Canada’s new rules if you intend on  travelling outside of Canada. For information on travel between Ontario and other provinces, please visit the Government of Ontario website.

Here is some other travel-related information to consider: 

  • Staying home is the best way to protect yourselves and others.
  • Those who decide to travel are advised to be fully vaccinated before doing so, while those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated should avoid non-essential travel to all destinations. 
  • Regardless of vaccination status, those who travel should practice personal public health measures while away and upon their return.  This includes wearing a mask or face-covering, physical distancing, frequent hand washing, and staying outdoors as much as possible in order to reduce risk of contracting COVID-19
  • Monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and do not travel if you are sick.
  • 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.
  • Decide whether you, someone you live with, or anyone you plan to visit with is at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, to determine decide whether to stay overnight in the same residence or to stay elsewhere.
  • Prepare for what you will do if you, or someone else, becomes ill during the visit, even with mild symptoms.
  • The level of COVID-19 in both your community and your destination’s community, as well as any risks and travel restrictions.
  • For official global travel advisories, visit the Government of Canada webpage.  

If you do stay at another home overnight or host overnight guests:

  • Provide all the necessary supplies, including hand sanitizer, soap and water, and wash your practice hands often hygiene frequently.  
  • Individuals from multiple households who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or status is unknown should practice physical distancing (two metres at all times) and wear face coverings.  
  • Hosts and guests from multiple households who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or status is unknown should not sleep in the same bedroom and should use separate washrooms, if possible. Spend time together outdoors such as taking a walk or sitting outdoors.  
  • Avoid singing or shouting, especially indoors.  
  • Monitor for COVID-19 symptoms (hosts and guest).
  • Have a plan for what to do if someone becomes ill, even with mild symptoms. What are the plans for self-isolation, health care, and travel home?
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Religious services, rites or ceremonies, including weddings and funerals 

The present provincial restrictions set out limits for religious services rites or ceremonies, including wedding and funeral services. Capacity limits vary by venue. Please consult the provincial capacity limits and restrictions for details on what may be permitted at your venue(s). Please note that individual venues may also choose to implement additional policies that go beyond minimum requirements to further reduce risks.

Before planning your wedding (or an event), please consult the safety measures that need to be followed by you and your guests.  

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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 COVID-19 Telephone Line

Regular hours:

  • Monday to Friday, from 8:00 am to 4 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.

See someone not respecting COVID-19 rules?

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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