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A Guide to Social Gatherings

Birthday parties, weddings, family dinners, and nights out with friends are all things that have been taken for granted in a pre-pandemic time. Throughout the past week, provinces across Canada (Ontario, New Brunswick, Alberta, and Quebec in particular) have been reporting record-breaking numbers of COVID-19 cases—many of which are numbers that we have not seen since early summer. In this time especially, it is important that we continue doing our parts in slowing the spread of the virus and ensuring case numbers are decreasing rather than increasing. We must abide by the rules and regulations put in place by government and health officials, which includes limiting contact with others whenever possible. After months of quarantine, however, it is understandable that people are anxious to regain normalcy, and have many questions surrounding social gatherings and what may be acceptable. In this article, we will cover current social gathering limits, recommendations from health professionals, and additional tips to help you make the best decisions!



Image courtesy of Vanier College


Current gathering limits


Due to the alarming increase in confirmed cases over the past few weeks, many provinces have taken action to limit social gathering sizes. Gathering limits may vary depending on the province, territory, region, or city you are in. To determine the social gathering limits established by your specific area, visit the Provincial and territorial resources for COVID-19 from the Public Health Agency of Canada.


Health authority recommendations


Government and health officials have strongly recommended that citizens avoid or postpone all social gatherings. During this surge in cases, it is best to limit contact to those within your household or place of work. Dr. Michael Gardam, medical director of infection prevention and control at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, tells CBC News that his recommendation is for people to stay in their bubbles, not engaging with anyone outside of their small social circles. "I think at this point in Canada's epidemic, the best thing to do is keep it as small as possible and really restrict our social gatherings to as few people as possible" (CBC News). Although experts have warned that this is not a perfect approach, as citizens break social bubbles when attending work and school, it is still a good practice to prevent transmission among communities.



Image courtesy of The Madawaska Valley Current


Additional tips


Hosting


It is recommended that social gatherings which require contact with people outside of your household or social circle be cancelled or postponed at this time. If this is not possible, or if you live in a region where the virus is under control (like Nova Scotia, P.E.I, or Yukon), here are some tips for hosting a safe social gathering:


  • It is important to make note of the social gathering limits in your specific region, and not exceed the maximum amount of attendees allowed. Visit your province or region’s website for more information on the specific restrictions implemented.

  • Limit the amount of people you invite and take into consideration the number of households your guests are from. When more people come into contact with members of different social circles, the risk of transmission increases dramatically.

  • If possible, locate your event in an outdoor space. Due to better ventilation and more accommodation to physical distance, outdoor spaces are better options when it comes to gathering locations as they can reduce the risk of transmission.

  • Ensure that all COVID-19 protocols can be safely followed. This includes physical distancing, wearing a mask, practicing frequent handwashing and hand hygiene, and limiting contact among attendees of separate households.

  • Request that all guests have been self-monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19 and that they have not experienced any symptoms, recently returned to Canada from travel, or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.

  • Encourage healthy hand hygiene by providing guests with a place to wash their hands, as well as hand sanitizer and wipes to maintain clean hands and surfaces.



Image Courtesy of The Toronto Star


Attending


As previously mentioned, it is highly recommended that citizens avoid social gatherings which require contact with those outside of your household or social circle. It is essential to visit the Government of Canada website and your province's or city’s website to stay updated on COVID-19 guidelines. Doing additional research to ensure you are making the best decision when it comes to your safety and the safety of your community is also key. If you will be attending a social gathering, here are some tips to keep in mind:


  • Make sure you are following all of your area's COVID-19 protocols. This includes physical distancing, wearing a mask, practicing frequent handwashing and hand hygiene, and limiting contact with those outside of your household.

  • Arrive to the event prepared with essentials including hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, disposable gloves, face masks, and any other materials you may need to avoid exposure. It is also a good idea to bring your own food and drinks rather than buying or sharing to avoid the risk of contamination.

  • Ensure that you have been self-monitoring for any COVID-19 symptoms. If you do experience any symptoms, have recently returned to Canada from travel, or have had contact with anyone who has tested positive for the virus, do not attend the event.

  • Limit exposure to others by avoiding close contact with individuals outside of your household and limiting time spent at gatherings, especially indoor gatherings.



Image courtesy of The Canadian Press


Conclusion


When it comes to social gatherings, you should try to avoid them when possible. Although it is understandably upsetting to cancel or postpone a special event, it may be necessary to prevent yourself and your community from getting sick. During this time, it is crucial to make health and safety a priority, and follow all advisories and guidelines from health officials. As we continue to emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown and work together to minimize a second wave of cases, it is important to keep one thing in mind: safety must always come first!


References


Artipatel. (2020, September 18). Coronavirus: 3 dos and don'ts when it comes to social

gatherings. Retrieved from

https://globalnews.ca/news/7343587/coronavirus-social-gatherings/

Safer celebrations and ceremonies. (n.d.). Retrieved from

http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/social-interactions/safer-

celebrations-and-ceremonies

Thanksgiving and other gatherings: Your COVID-19 questions answered | CBC News. (2020,

October 07). Retrieved from

https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/ask-covid-gatherings-1.5744545


Featured image courtesy of Carina Ockedahl of Canadian Auto Dealer



Article Author: Michelle Xiao

Article Editors: Maria Giroux, Sherilyn Wen

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