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

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Ontario Strengthens Enforcement of Stay-at-Home Order

New Provincial restrictions in effect as of April 17, 2021 at 12:01 a.m.

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Last revised on April 6, 2021

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White-Shutdown zone of the province’s COVID-19 response framework  

Please note: On Saturday April 3, 2021 at 12:01 am, Ottawa moved back to the White-Shutdown zone of the province’s COVID-19 response framework. This impacts organized events and social gatherings. 

  • Indoor gatherings are not permitted, only people within your household (or one other household if you live alone)
  • Limits for outdoor gatherings must comply with general public health advice on physical distancing and are now limited to five people. 

For more information about the White-Shutdown zone of the province’s COVID-19 response framework please visit the Ontario Ministry of Health.

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: 

Be social wise during the White-Shutdown zone of the province's COVID-19 response framework

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 from another household can be important social supports to draw on.

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 

Ottawa Public Health does not recommend hosting in-person gatheringsIf you live alone you may then want to gather with one or two friends or loved ones from one other household for social support. However, if you do choose to gather with one other household, gathering outdoors can be safer than gathering indoors. Under the White-Shutdown zone of the province’s COVID-19 response framework outdoor gatherings are limited to a five person maximum. 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 

Ottawa Public Health does not recommend hosting in-person gatherings. If you live alone you may then want to gather with one or two friends or loved ones from one other household for social support. However, if you do choose to gather with one other household, gathering outdoors can be safer than gathering indoors. Under the White-Shutdown zone of the province’s COVID-19 response framework outdoor gatherings are limited to five people. 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. 

Please also see the tips below if you’re gathering 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 opening dates for pools and beaches, locations and hours of service 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

Hosting a gathering

Ottawa Public Health recommends hosting a virtual gathering; 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 people from one other household for social support. If those are your circumstances, below are tips to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19:  

Please note under the White-Shutdown zone conditions prohibiting indoor organized events and gatherings and social gatherings to a 5 person maximum  

  • 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.

Attending a gathering 

Under the current White-Shutdown zone indoor organized public events and social gatherings are prohibited and limiting the capacity for outdoor organized public events or social gatherings to a five-person maximum, except for gatherings with members of the same household (the people you live with) or gatherings of members of one household and one other person from another household who lives alone. 

Ottawa Public Health recommends gathering virtually; 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 people from 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 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

Under the White-Shutdown zone of the province’s COVID-19 response framework, new and modified measures are in place to allow for the safe operation of in-person shopping at retail stores. 

  • If possible, consider shopping online, using curbside pickup or delivery, where available.  
  • If shopping in person:
    • Plan ahead; go during non-peak hours.
    • Go alone or limit the number of people who you shop with. 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.
    • 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 

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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Spring/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.  

The safest option is to choose activities that can be done with just your household contacts or, if you live alone, with one or two of your chosen social support persons. Choose individual sports that allow two metres (six feet) of spacing between others. 

Please note:  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.

Outdoor play and leisure   

Safe options:

  • Going to less crowded parks
  • 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

Check out the City of Ottawa's Summer Programs activities.

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. If you have access to technology such as video conferencing, please use it to share some smiles. 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.

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. If you live alone, you can visit with one or two essential support person(s) such as a caregiver from another household. 
  • 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 (six feet) apart from those outside your household.

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Indoor weddings and receptions

Under the White-Shutdown zone of the province's COVID-19 response framework, limits for religious services rites or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services, where physical distancing can be maintained (applied in any venue other than a private dwelling) is 15% capacity of the room indoors.

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.

Learn more about COVID-19 Guidance for Places of Worship (pdf - 353 KB)

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 (six feet) apart from those outside your household or your chosen social support person(s).

Please note: On Saturday April 3, 2021 at 12:01 am, Ottawa moves to White-Shutdown zone of the province’s COVID-19 response framework. This impacts organized events, establishments and facilities.    

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Contact Information

Provincial Vaccine Information Line

  • 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • 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 7:30 am to 6:00 pm
  • Weekends, from 9:00 am to 4:00 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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