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

a house and an exclamation point

State of emergency in effect. Stay at home except for essential travel and follow the restrictions and public health measures. We are currently updating our pages to reflect the new provincial measures. City updates how Province’s stay-at-home measures will impact some in-person services and facilities.

 

Last revised on January 15, 2020

On this page: 

Provincewide shutdown

Please note that the Ontario Ministry of Health’s Provincewide Shutdown will be in effect from Saturday, December 26th.

  • Indoor gatherings are limited to your household (the people you live with).
  • Individuals who live alone and single parents may consider having exclusive close contact with one other household to help reduce the negative impacts of social isolation.
  • Limits for outdoor gatherings must comply with general public health advice on physical distancing and are limited to 10 people.

For more information about the Provincewide Shutdown, 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: 

  • 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 the provincial shutdown

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.  

Some things to note before you start planning:  

  • Indoor public events and social gatherings are limited to your own household (the people you live with) under the Provincewide Shutdown guidelines.
    • If you live alone or are a single parent, you may consider having an exclusive close contact with one other household to help reduce the negative impacts of social isolation.
  • Outdoor public events and social gatherings are limited to 10 people under the Provincewide Shutdown guidelines.
  • These limits cannot be combined (for example: it is NOT permitted to host a social gathering with your household indoors and 10 guests outdoors).   

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.  

Back to top

Outdoor Gatherings 

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 Provincewide Shutdown Guidelines, outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 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. 

Tents 

If you choose to gather in a well-ventilated tent or canopy, please follow these safety recommendations:   

  • Ensure that 2 sides of the tent are up/open (more if possible) and that it is large enough to allow at least two metres (six feet) of physical distance between people. Masking and two-metre distancing are also strongly recommended. 
  • Remember that under the Provincewide Shutdown guidelines, outdoor gatherings such as these are limited to 10 people.

Heat sources 

Having an outdoor heat source can make everyone more comfortable, but ensure guests are not huddled close together at the heat sourceWhichever heat source you use, remember that it is all about space, set up and safety.  Please follow the recommendations from Ottawa Fire Services found below:   

  • If using a heater, ensure to follow the manufacturers recommendations for safe distance from combustibles (items that can catch fire) and ventilation requirements (usually a minimum of one metre).
  • Fuel or alcohol-based patio heaters or fire pits designed for outdoor use should not be used in enclosed areas as there is a risk of fire or poisoning from dangerous carbon monoxide gas (this includes all garages, even with the door open).
  • Electric heaters should be plugged directly into an outlet, not using an extension cord or power bar. Follow the manufacturers recommendations for safe clearances from combustible surfaces. 
  • Never leave portable heaters or candles unattended, ensure they are placed on a solid steady surface and away from any combustibles.
  • Tents and portable shelters are made from materials which can be highly flammable - be sure to keep heaters and candles well away from any plastic or vinyl walls. 

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

  • Stay at least two metres away from others. Consider spacing out chairs or put tape on the ground where others should stand or sit.
  • Limit your guests to one additional family or household.
  • Wear a face mask preferably with 3 layers.
  • Stay warm by wearing layers and bring a hat and gloves and plenty of blankets with you.
  • If you drink alcohol, remember that the more you drink the harder it may be to remember to follow safety precautions and you may also put yourself at higher risk of hypothermia Try to alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks as well as having a designated driver if required.
  • If you must go inside to use the bathroom, wear a face mask and practice proper hand hygiene.
  • Move around to stay warm outside. 
  • You could also choose to provide your guests with disposable hand warmers to keep and take home.
  • REMEMBER: Hypothermia can occur in as little as 10 or 15 minutes in extremely cold temperatures. Babies, young children and older adults are most at-risk, so consider your group’s age and health when deciding if an outdoor gathering is safe.

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:  

  • 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 

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 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.

Back to top

Shopping

Under the Provincewide Shutdown guidelines, shopping is limited to certain services and you are encouraged to limit trips outside your home.

  • If possible, consider shopping online, using curbside pickup, or delivery.  
  • 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. 

Back to top

Travelling 

At the moment, Ottawa Public does not recommend travelling outside our region during the holiday season and/or other celebrations. Under the Provincewide Shutdown guidelines, travel outside of the Ottawa region should be limited to only essential reasons. Individuals and families who arrive or return to Ontario during the Provincewide Shutdown period should self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

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.

Back to top

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.  

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 when skating on public ice rinks and participating in other outdoor recreation activities that do not allow you to keep a two metre (six feet) distance from others 

Outdoor play and leisure   

  • Build a snowman.   
  • Build a snow fort.   
  • Go for a walk in your own community.  

Ice skating   

  • Sit on a bench outside to put your skates on instead of inside a changing hut.
  • Choose open spaces where it is easier to maintain a two metre (six feet) distance from other people.
  • Wear a mask. 
  • Avoid crowded rinks. 
  • PLEASE NOTE:  there is a 25-person capacity limit on the public rinks. 

Tobogganing   

  • Stay with your household members or, if you live alone, with one or two of your chosen social support persons.
  • Keep at least a two metre (six feet) distance from everyone else. 
  • Wear a mask.
  • Avoid crowded hills – come back at a different time
  • PLEASE NOTE:  there is a 25-person capacity limit on the public rinks. 

Cross Country Skiing, Hiking or Snowshoeing   

  • Find a multi-use winter trail to enjoy with family, and one close friend if you live alone, but keep a two metre (six feet) distance from people outside of your household or chosen social support persons. 
  • Carpool only with people in your own household and keep a two metre (six feet) distance with others before and after doing your sport together. 
  • Wear a mask. 
  • Avoid any shared food or drinks.  
  • Avoid crowded trail heads and/or parking lots. 
  • PLEASE NOTE:  there is a 25-person capacity limit on the public rinks. 

Please consider your own risk factors before participating in any outdoor group activity. For an older person or someone with chronic medical problemsthe 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.

Back to top

Mental health 

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. 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.

Back to top

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 (6 feet) apart from those outside your household.

Back to top

Indoor Weddings and Receptions

Under the Provincewide Shutdown guidelines, weddings are limited to 10 people either indoors or outdoors. Receptions are considered social gatherings and should include only members of one household indoors or 10 people outdoors.

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: 

 Social Wise campaign videos

 

 

Back to top

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 December 26, 2020 the Province of Ontario has placed further restrictions on social gatherings, events and other establishments as part of the Provincewide Shutdown. 

  • Outdoor gatherings are now restricted to a maximum of 10 people and indoor gatherings are now restricted to one’s own household.  
  • These limits cannot be combined (for example: it is NOT permitted to host a social gathering with your household indoors and 10 guests outdoors).   
  • For a list of which businesses are permitted to operate during the Provincewide Shutdown, please visit the Ontario Ministry of Health website.

Back to top

 

COVID-19 Update

Contact Information

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

Related Information

 

 

Contact Us