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

 Last revised on July 15, 2021

New:

  1. COVID-19 Community Reporting Tool
  2. Effective July 16 at 12:01 am, the province moves to Step Three (3) of its roadmap to reopening.
  3. New web page: Public Health Orders and Instructions

On this page: 

Be social wise while we build community immunity  

Remember that until enough people are immunized against COVID-19, we still must follow COVID 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 get tested immediately 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 note:  Effective July 16 at 12:01am, the province moves to Step 3  of its roadmap to reopening allowing the following:

  • Outdoor social gatherings and organized public events with up to 100 people;
  • Indoor social gatherings and organized public events with up to 25 people;
  • Indoor dining permitted with no limits on the number of patrons per table with physical distancing and other restrictions still in effect;

For more information on the current provincial restrictions, please visit the Ontario Ministry of Health.

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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Outdoor gatherings 

While some restrictions remain in place, you can gather indoors and outdoors with members outside your household.  Outdoor activities are a safer option:  we can play in a park, enjoy the city's multi-use pathways, cool off in a splash pad.  Under the present provincial restrictions outdoor gatherings are limited to 100 people, including with members of different households. 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. 

Warmer weather 

Please also see the tips below if you’re outdoors in the heat:  

When both temperature and humidity are high, it can be hard for our bodies to keep cool and not overheat.  Extreme heat events can cause heat-related illnesses and in some cases, even death.  Environment and Climate Change Canada issues heat warnings based on a forecast of:

  • Daytime temperature of 31ºC or higher and nighttime temperature not cooler than 20ºC for at least two days, or
  • Humidex of 40 C for at least two days

Heat warnings mean extra precautions need to be taken by everyone. Some of the usual ways we cool off may not be available this summer because of measures put in place to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Wearing a face mask when it is hot may require extra breaks from the heat. It will be important to think ahead and plan for ways to stay cool and keep in touch with others who may not be able to stay cool, especially during a heat warning. 

Please check the City of Ottawa's website for the locations and hours for pools and beaches at Ottawa.ca.

People at risk of getting sick from the heat include infants and older adults; those who work or exercise outdoors; those with pre-existing health conditions; people experiencing homelessness, and people without access to air conditioning. 

Protect Yourself and Help Others during Hot Weather
  • Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol and caffeine
  • Avoid heavy outdoor activity
  • Wear a hat, light and loose-fitting clothing, sunscreen and sunglasses when outside
  • Bring an umbrella and water when leaving home in case you need to wait outdoors in the heat, such as waiting to enter a store in a lineup   
  • Cool off in an air-conditioned space when available
  • Cool off in the shade or at a park or greenspace
  • Take cool baths and showers as often as needed or soak hands and/or feet in cool water
  • Breastfeed/chestfeed according to your child’s cues and drink plenty of water if you are breastfeeding.  See our Parenting in Ottawa website for more info on keeping children safe during hot weather
  • Keep your home cool by closing blinds and curtains on any windows facing the sun  
  • Open windows at night once the outdoor air is cooler than the indoor air; close windows in the morning before hotter air comes in
  • Use fans at night to help exhaust warm indoor air and bring in cool outdoor air 
  • Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you are taking medications as some can make it harder to control body temperature.
  • Stay connected with people in your community who have a difficult time coping with hot weather and those who live alone. Check on them regularly. 
Hot weather concerns and face masks: 

Wearing a mask is important to decrease transmission of COVID-19 in any indoor setting where it may be difficult to maintain at least two-metre distancing or the room or corridor is small. Wearing a mask may not be necessary outdoors (where higher temperatures may be more of a concern) if distances can be maintained. 

Masks do become more uncomfortable in hot temperatures, but they will still work. The general public should plan outdoor outings for the coolest times of the day and take breaks in the shade or a cool environment if they are finding a face mask uncomfortable in the heat.   

For people undertaking physical exertion in heat, a mask can make the effort more difficult. Decreasing intensity/volume of work, more frequent rests, and more cooling breaks may be necessary. Discuss your health needs with your employer. 

For more information visit our website at OttawaPublicHealth.ca/heat or call us weekdays at 613-580-6744

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Garage Sales

Garage sales (yard sales) are permitted. If you are hosting a garage sale, follow these public health measures to keep you and others safe:

  • Follow capacity limits for outdoor gatherings by referring to the Reopening Ontario webpage.
  • Put up posters outlining health measures (wear masks, maintain physical distancing and encourage hand hygiene).
  • Restrict and manage traffic by asking people to wait nearby once the property reaches capacity.
  • Set up and manage directional traffic flow, to minimize crowding.
  • Set up sanitization stations so people can cleanse their hands before and after handling items.

Hosting a gathering

Please note that under the present provincial restrictions, indoor organized events and social gatherings is limited to a total of 25 people.

If you choose to host an indoor gathering, 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 at all times if indoors with people from outside your household.
  • Stay two metres apart.
  • 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.

Attending a gathering 

Under the present provincial restrictions, indoor social gatherings and organized public events are permitted with up to 25 people. The limit for outdoor organized public events or social gatherings is 100 people, including with members of different households.

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. Get tested for COVID-19 and self-isolate.
  • Wear a mask at all times if indoors with people from outside your household.
  • Stay two metres (six feet) apart from those outside your household or your chosen social support person(s).
  • 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.

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Shopping

Under the present provincial restrictions, modified measures are in place to allow for the safe operation of in-person shopping at retail stores. 

  • If shopping in person:
    • Plan ahead; go during non-peak hours.
    • Put your mask on before entering the store; sanitize your hands before handling your mask and after taking your mask off.
    • Answer screening questions about COVID-19 symptoms and exposure before coming into malls.  
    • 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.  

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Travelling 

NEW:  Please check the Government of Canada’s new rules if you have to travel outside of Canada for business or other essential reasons. 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:  

  • 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. If there are household contacts that are fully vaccinated, and they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms, they do not need to isolate while waiting for the symptomatic person's test results.
  • 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.
  • 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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Summer 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, roller-blading and cycling
  • Gardening and yardwork
  • Personal hobbies such as bird watching, stargazing, painting, nature journaling, and photography
  • Picnics, playing catch, kicking a soccer ball, throwing a football
  • Flying a kite
  • Sitting on a blanket, grass or lawn chair
  • Exercising and stretching on a yoga mat, but not in a class

Please note:  

The current provincial restrictions limits outdoor social gathering to 100 people total.

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.

Learn more on the guidelines for the use of City parks and check out the City of Ottawa's Summer Programs 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. Ottawa Public Health recommends the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website to all persons wishing to better understand their personal risks for COVID-19 infection.

Useful Links:

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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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Birthdays

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

  • Limit gatherings to 25 people.
  • 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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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.  

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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Indoor spaces

 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, or respiratory droplets, many of which are big enough that they fall quickly to the ground, 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 of 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 following COVIDWise principles:  

W – Wear a mask or face covering where required, or when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres (six feet), or any time you are in a room or other limited airspace with another person even if you are able to stay two metres apart.   

I – Isolate yourself when you have any symptoms and get tested.  Learn about testing: OttawaPublicHealth.ca/COVIDcentre  

S – Stay two metres (six feet) apart from those outside your household.  

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

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. Along with using COVIDWise measures, 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?
It is important to note that in the instances where poor ventilation was linked to increased transmission of COVID-19, the issue has usually been unbalanced or drafty HVAC air flow that carried the virus to other people in the same room, and not the HVAC system carrying the virus through ductwork to other rooms. At this time, there has been no convincing evidence that COVID-19 has been transmitted to people in other rooms using the same HVAC system. In fact, 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.

COVIDWise behavior remains the best way to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus indoors.  

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. 

For more information on the current provincial restrictions, please visit the Ontario Ministry of Health website.

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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

  • Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 4:30 pm
  • Weekends, from 9 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

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