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

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Last revised on October 22, 2020

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Be social wise during holidays and celebrations

Due to a local rise in the 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 outside your home can be important social supports to draw on.   

Holidays and celebrations are going to look and feel different during the COVID-19 pandemicAll 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:  

  • Current provincial gathering limits are 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.  
    • These limits cannot be combined (for example: it is NOT permitted to host 35 people, with 25 people outdoors and 10 people indoors).   

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. 

Try these tips below to lower the risk of COVID-19 during holidays and celebrations: 

Thanksgiving  

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 friends or loved ones from one other household for social support. Instead of a large family/friend dinner, enjoy an outdoor hike with your loved ones.

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Halloween  

Be HalloWise

Ottawa Public Health is recommending to not go trick-or-treating this year. 

H:   Haunt your mind by sharing scary stories with friends on Facetime or Zoom. 

A:  Adapt your celebration by trick or treating inside with the people you live with or with your chosen social support person(s) if you live alone.  Think an Easter Egg hunt but Halloween themed.  

L:  Limit your in-person celebration to those you live with or your chosen social support person(s) if you live alone. 

L:  Launch a virtual competition with your neighbors for the best outdoor Halloween decorations.   

O:  Organize a virtual costume party with your friends.   

W:  Watch scary or fun movies with the people you live with or your chosen social support person(s) if you live alone. 

I:   Inspire your costume around a mask… how can you create the most thematic 2020 costume? 

S:  Show kindness by sharing photos, or connecting virtually, instead of hugs with your loved ones who are more at risk. 

E:  Eat a fun and spooky meal you’ve made with those you live with or that chosen social support person(s) if you live alone. 

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Recognizing Remembrance Day 

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) encourages all Remembrance Day events be held virtually this year, or be virtually accessible. OPH does not recommend holding in-person gatherings.  

For the first time, the Royal Canadian Legion is asking the public to pay their respects virtually instead of in person for the 2020 National Remembrance Day Ceremony

Every year the Remembrance Day ceremony is held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on November 11 to commemorate the men and women who have served and continue to serve in Canada’s military. This year, the ceremony will look different as changes have been made to ensure health and safety. You can watch the ceremony and take part in the two minutes of silence via the Legion’s Facebook page. The event is usually also broadcast nationally on television as well as radio locally. Please visit the Royal Canadian Legion website at https://www.legion.ca/ for up to date information on the ceremony. 

If attending a Remembrance Day event (that is permitted as per O. Reg. 364/20), remember that it is safest to attend events virtually, and likely safer to attend outdoor events than indoor ones.   

Remember to

  • Stay home if you have symptoms, even if they are mild or you recently had a negative COVID-19 test. 

  • Maintain two metres of physical distancing from anyone you do not live with and limit close contact to members of your household. 

  • Wear a mask indoors and wear one outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained or is required. 

  • Wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently. 

Please note:  Older adults and 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.  We should all consider our risks as well as the risks of those in our household prior to participating in events. 

Selling poppies:   

  • The safer way to sell poppies is with unstaffed boxes (e.g., at checkouts). Members of the public can also donate to the Legion or purchase a digital poppy online

If you chose to sell poppies in-person: 

  • Wear a mask; 

  • Wash or sanitize your hands regularly and every time after handling cash. 

Here is how you can participate in Remembrance Day this year: 

  • Join the ceremony virtually via the Royal Canadian Legion’s Facebook page 

  • Watch the ceremony on television or listen to it on the radio 

  • Purchase a poppy in person or a digital poppy online 

  • Purchase a wreath which will be pre-positioned around the National War Memorial for the ceremony  

  • Hold your own ceremony with those in your household or if you live alone, with one or two support people outside your home. Consider creating your own wreath or poppy and take part in two minutes of silence together. 

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 and plus up to 1 or 2 essential support person(s) such as a caregiver.
  • 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.

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Indoor Weddings and Receptions

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: 

It is very important to follow these safety measures:  A real world Contact Tracing example - Wedding Cluster (pdf- 19.7MB).

Infographic showing a wedding example

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Winter season  

  • Instead of an indoor holiday gathering, take advantage of our great Canadian seasons and enjoy a holiday walk, skate, ski or snowshoe with loved ones.
  • All holidays - Create new traditions for a safer holiday. How will you celebrate differently and more safely? Let us know on our Engage Ottawa site.
  • Give the gift of safety- It will be hard, but try to avoid hugging and embracing those who are not part of your household or your chosen social support person(s) if you live alone.

Hosting a gathering 

Consider hosting a virtual holiday gathering this year; 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 friends or loved ones 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 2 metres apart.  

  • Provide hand sanitizer.
  • 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; consult with OPH authority for advice; 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.
  • Avoid hugging, kissing and shaking hands of guests who are not household contacts.

Expecting overnight guests for the holidays? 

  • If you start experiencing COVID-19 symptomsseek testing and ask your guests to stay home. 

  • If you test positive, plan for a later visit.  

  • If you test negative, have your guests wait until at least 24 hours after the symptoms have resolved without fever-reducing medication, or 48 hours after vomiting or diarrhea has resolved, or play it safe and cancel.  

  • If you have been told by OPH to self-isolate for 14 days, you cannot have guests during this time, even if you have no symptoms or have tested negative for COVID-19. 

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Attending a gathering 

Consider attending a holiday gathering virtually this year; set up a phone, tablet or laptop around the dinner table with those outside your household and/or your chosen social support person(s).
At the moment Ottawa Public Health does not recommend attending a gathering unless you live alone as you may want to gather with one or two friends or 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 (6 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.

Shopping for gatherings 

  • If possible, consider shopping online.  

  • 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 2 meters (6 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. 

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Travelling 

At the moment, Ottawa Public does not recommend travelling outside our region for Thanksgiving and/or other holiday celebrations.

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.

Mental health 

This year, holidays might make some feel more alone than usual. 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.
The holidays may be a happy time for some, but for others they can be a struggle. It’s OK to not be OK. Reach out for support.
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.

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: 

  • W - Wear a mask or face covering where required, or when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres (6 feet).  

  • I - Isolate yourself from others when you are sick and get tested promptly if you have COVID-19 like symptoms.  

  • S - Stay two metres (6 feet) apart from those outside your household or your chosen social support person(s).

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

Other recommendations to help reduce your risk include: 

  • Greet with a wave instead of a handshake, a kiss or a hug with those outside your household.
  • Have your mask and hand sanitizer with you at all times.
  • Download the COVID Alert app, a joint Federal-Provincial initiative that will help alert users of a potential exposure to COVID-19.
  • Leave any situation if you’re uncomfortable. And if you’re sick, even with mild symptoms, please stay home.

We can still be social – we just have to do things a little differently. Be Social Wise and assess the risk of your activities.

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Three women wearing masks. The words social-wise.ca appear below them in pink.

Celebrating during the holidays

Due to a local rise in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) recommends keeping the number of people you interact with small. For social gatherings, this can include limiting gatherings to those who live in your household or those providing support services such as a caregiver. If you live alone (single parent, student, etc.), one or two contacts outside your home can be important social supports to draw on.

1. Plan an outdoor social activity such as a hike, a bike ride, a skate, snowshoe or ski.  

The risk of transmission is lower outside as long as precautions like physical distancing and proper hand hygiene are followed. If you have a celebration indoors, keep the windows open and don’t use fans because the air circulated by fans can further spread the virus. Stay two metres (6 feet) apart from those outside your household or your chosen social support person(s).

2. Make it short (and between meals) 

A shorter celebration = less risk of transmission, and that’s good. Having friends over for a meal complicates things and increases the chance of sharing items and breaking the two metres (6 feet) rule when eating at the same table. You also need to remove your mask to eat and drink. 

3. Have a smaller celebration 

Fewer people = fewer risks of COVID-19 transmission. 

4. Prepare your “survival kit”: disinfectant wipes or cloth and soapy water 

Before your guests arrive, clean surfaces that are often touched (doorknobs, light switches, table, bathroom, etc.). Consider having disinfectant wipes for your guests to clean their cell phones upon entry. Some experts call your cell phone your “third hand” as it can carry many germs from ongoing touching.  

5. Make sure there is access to water and soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizers (ie: Purell) 

6. Ask your guests to wash their hands when they arrive and when they leave. 

Make a point to tell your guests ahead of time that they should wash their hands. 

7. Set aside a bathroom for your guests, if possible. 

Prepare a poster that reminds your guests to wash their hands before and after using the toilet. 

8. Have masks on hand for people who don’t bring their own 

Give your guests masks and remind them that even with a mask on, it is important to stay two metres (6 feet) away from each other. 

9. Stay in control of your social life.

You have a role to play to help reduce the risk of your guests contracting COVID-19. Advise your guests ahead of time that they should stay home if they have any symptoms of COVID-19 and that you are taking steps to lower the risk of transmitting the virus.

Resources

Ottawa Public Health:

 Social Wise campaign videos

 

 

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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 October 10, 2020 the Province of Ontario has placed further restrictions on social gatherings, events and other establishments. 

  • Outdoor gatherings are now restricted to a maximum of 25 people and indoor gatherings are now restricted to maximum of 10 people (where physical distancing can be maintained).  

  • Capacity limits also reduced to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors for tour guide services, real estate open houses, meeting and event spaces, in-person teaching and instruction where physical distancing can be maintained (with exemptions for schools, childcare centres, colleges, etc.).  

  • Indoor and outdoor events or gatherings cannot be merged together (ex. gathering of 35 people, with 25 people outdoors and 10 people indoors is not permissible).  

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