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Social Gatherings and Holidays

Social Gatherings

Enjoy connecting again with friends and extended family particularly outdoors and in small groups. We currently remain in Step 3 of the Roadmap to Reopen which allows outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people and indoor gatherings of up to 25 people. Masks and distancing are still good measures to practice particularly when indoors. You can assess the risk of your gathering to decide if they are needed (e.g., is it a group of fully vaccinated individuals who are not high risk? Or are there people attending who are unvaccinated, those with unknown vaccination status, or will there people who are at high risk coming?).

Considerations for managing your risk in public and social situations:

General rules:

  • SSelf-isolate if you have symptoms of COVID-19. Consider getting tested.
  • MMask/face covering on when indoors and when physical distancing is a challenge outdoors.
  • A – Avoid large or frequent gatherings with different people that can increase the number of individuals you are exposed to.
  • R – Remain 2 metres/6 feet apart from people you do not live with.
  • T – Twenty (20) seconds for regular hand hygiene. Do this thoroughly and regularly. Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm or a tissue and wash hands afterwards.

There are many holidays, and other events in the fall and winter months, (e.g.,Thanksgiving, Hallowe’en, Mawlid/Milad-un-Nabi, Diwali, Remembrance Day, and other cultural or religious holidays).

Celebrate safely during COVID-19 | ontario.ca

Célébrer de façon sécuritaire durant la COVID-19 | ontario.ca

  • Many of these events and gatherings include components that have the potential to increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission including:
    • Social gatherings with close contact in indoor settings, including shared meals where face coverings are removed in order to eat and drink;
    • Larger public events or ceremonies; and/or
    • Domestic and international travel.

Check out this poster on COVID-19 & Activities.

  • Always check for symptoms, and, if you have any, isolate and get tested (even if vaccinated).
  • If you are in a public place wear a mask and distance. Protection from the Delta variant really requires two doses for proper protection and is now the predominant strain that is in Ontario. Not everyone has had two doses of the vaccine and there is no way to know when you are in a public place who may be vulnerable or infected.
  • Social gatherings (follow gathering limits)
    • Decide if masking and physical distancing is needed based on who is going to be at the gathering and the setting (see guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada).
    • MyCOVID-19 Visit Risk Calculator can help you assess the risks before visiting, gathering or meetings with others based on personal and other risk factors
    • Things to Consider:
      • Your personal risk and the risk of people you will be spending time with
        • Have they been vaccinated?
        • Is everyone symptom free? (people even with mild symptoms should stay home)
        • Do they have health conditions or take medications that could affect their immune system?
        • Are they at higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 (such as >80 years old, pregnant, underlying health conditions, etc.)?
        • Do they work in a setting that may have more exposure to COVID-19 positive individuals like in a hospital, clinic or testing center?
      • The setting where you will be gathering (e.g. indoor or outdoor, good ventilation, lots of space between people). Outdoor activities are less risky than indoor activities.
      • Activities you are engaging in. Is there more risk of close contact, or droplet spread in these activities?
      • Be mindful of community spread of COVID-19 and the presence of the Delta variant in the community, local COVID-19 surveillance data and if people are traveling from an area where there are a lot of cases/outbreaks.
  • It’s important to re-assess your risk level and comfort level as this situation changes and for each gathering.
  • Things are not the same for everyone, everywhere so make the decision that is right for you, and treat others with kindness

Virtual gatherings or events are the safest way to celebrate, especially if people in the group are unvaccinated or if their vaccination status is unknown.

If you choose to hold or participate in an in-person gathering or event with people outside your household, you should take precautions to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. The fewer people who gather, the lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Remember that knowing someone does not reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19.

Gatherings or events outdoors are safer than indoors.

  • When gathering outdoors with:
    • A group of fully vaccinated individuals, no face covering or physical distancing is necessary.
    • People from multiple households who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or vaccination status is unknown, you should consider wearing a face covering if physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • When gathering indoors with:
    • A group of fully vaccinated individuals, you may consider removing their face covering if everyone is comfortable.
    • People from multiple households who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or status is unknown, you should wear a face covering and physically distance.
  • Regardless of setting, you can wear a face covering and physically distance if you feel it is right for you, especially if you or others are immune-compromised or at high-risk of severe disease and/or exposure to COVID-19.

You may have a gathering with people you don’t live with. However, it is important to remember that knowing someone does not reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19. Keep following good public health practises.

If you choose to host an in-person gathering:

  • Do not exceed the gathering limit of 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
    • You should have the fewest number of people possible at your party or gathering and use outdoor spaces whenever possible.
  • Provide all the necessary supplies, including hand sanitizer, soap and water.
  • Open windows, if possible.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces.
  • Ask guests to not attend if they have symptoms, even if they are mild.
  • Make a list of guests attending in case public health needs it for contact tracing.
  • Remind people of public health guidance to follow during the event.
  • If you choose to serve food or drinks at your party, you should:
    • Wash your hands before and frequently during preparation and serving; and;
    • Have everyone wash their hands before and after eating.

If you choose to attend an in-person gathering:

  • You should not attend if you have any symptoms, even if they are mild.
  • Be aware of and comfortable with the measures they will have in place for safety.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer regularly throughout the event.
  • Consider participating virtually or not attending the event if you are immune-compromised or at higher risk of severe disease and/or exposure to COVID-19.

If you choose to trick-or-treat door-to-door:

  • Stay home if you have symptoms, even if they are mild.
  • Trick-or-treat outdoors as much as possible.
    • If trick-or-treating indoors maintain physical distancing as much as possible and wear a face covering, especially when physical distancing is a challenge.
  • Be creative and build the face covering into your costume, but know that a costume mask is not a substitute for a face covering, and that a costume mask should not be worn over a non-medical mask or face covering because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe.
    • Do not crowd doorsteps – Take turns, one at a time.
  • Do not sing or shout for your treats.
  • Keep interactions brief with those giving out treats.
  • Use hand sanitizer often, especially before and after handling your face covering, after touching frequently touched surfaces, when you arrive home from trick-or-treating, and before and after handling or eating treats.
    • There is no need to clean or disinfect pre-packaged treats.

If you choose to give out treats:

  • Do not participate in Halloween festivities if you have symptoms, even if they are mild.
  • Keep interactions with trick-or-treaters short and encourage them to move along after receiving their treat from you.
  • Consider wearing a face covering when physical distancing cannot be maintained:
    • If you are dressing up, consider including the face covering as part of your costume.
  • Give out only purchased and packaged treats.
  • Do not ask trick-or-treaters to sing or shout for their treats.
  • Clean your hands often throughout the evening using soap and water or with hand sanitizer.
  • If attending a Remembrance Day memorial event:
    • Stay home if you have symptoms, even if they are mild.
    • Wear a face covering indoors and wear one outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained or is required.
    • Wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently.
    • Consider participating virtually or not attending the event if you are immune-compromised or at higher risk of severe disease and/or exposure to COVID-19.
  • If you chose to sell poppies in-person:
    • Wear a face covering.
    • Have hand sanitizer and use it regularly.
    • Consider not selling if you are immune-compromised or at higher risk of severe disease and/or exposure to COVID-19.

If someone you know isn’t wearing a mask or is not keeping 2m of distance:

  • “I am trying my best to stay safe during this time, if we aren’t both wearing a mask then I do not feel comfortable coming within 2m.”
  • “Hey friend, that is not 2m/6ft, Scooch back a bit, a little more, little more…there we go”
  • “I’m not expecting you to put on a Hazmat Suit – but at least pop on your mask while we talk.”
  • “Hey dude! You forgot your pants – I mean mask”
  • Make it about them. “I feel like I have some exposure because I work outside the home and I want to be sure you are protected – so I’ll stand back here to protect you.”

If you are invited to a gathering or event and don’t feel comfortable attending:

  • “Sorry, I can’t, I need be careful for ______________”
  • “I can’t be sure that everyone will wear masks and be able to remain 2m apart, so it feels too risky for me.”
  • “I already feel like I have some risk because of my job – so I’m trying to reduce it in all the other ways I can.”
  • “I try to limit my times I leave the house to once a week and I have already done so this week – can we connect over video or phone instead?”
  • “Great idea – but let’s do it post-pandemic!”
  • “I’d love to, but indoor gatherings are just too risky right now.”

If chatting with friends or acquaintances in person you can reduce your risk by reducing your time of exposure and having an excuse to leave after a short time (less than 15 minutes). Remember that we have control over our own behaviour. If someone is around you and not wearing a mask, you can move back to protect yourself.