Social gathering limit increased, people encouraged to form “social circles”
Tim Brody - Editor
Last Friday, the Ontario government increased the limit on social gatherings from five to 10 people.
People were also encouraged to establish a “social circle”, which the province pointed out is a different thing altogether.
“Social gatherings can be any 10 people from outside your household, but where physical distancing of at least two metres should be maintained. For example, the expansion of social gatherings enables individuals and families to enjoy the company of others at backyard barbeques and picnics in neighbourhood parks, while respecting physical distancing advice,” a news release from the Government of Ontario explained.
“On the other hand, social circles will enable Ontarians to enjoy close contact with members of their circle. This could include hugging, carpooling, enjoying a patio and sharing a meal without staying two metres apart. Ontarians should avoid close-contact activities with anyone outside of their circle if they are unable to maintain physical distancing. Social circles will also bring back supports from people outside of their household who can now help with children, seniors or those in need,” the province further explained.
“At the outset of the pandemic, we had to make the necessary, but difficult decision to ban large public gatherings and strongly advise physical distancing with everyone except immediate household members" said Premier Doug Ford. “As the public health trends improve and our collective efforts start to pay off, we're now able to take another step forward today by allowing families and their loved ones to reunite and spend time with one another safely through social circles.”
The Government of Ontario has shared the following five steps to create and maintain a social circle:
Step 1: Start with your current circle: anyone you live with or who regularly comes into your household
Be sure to include anyone that would come into regular close contact with you and the people you live with.
This may be:
- family members, including children
- your roommates
- another parent to your child(ren) that lives outside the home
- a babysitter or caregiver
If you add people outside of your household to your social circle, be sure to include anyone in their households as well. You may not see them often, but they would still be considered part of your current circle.
Remember that everyone in a household must be part of the same social circle.
Step 2: If under 10 people, you can add members to your social circle, including another household, family members or friends
As you add additional members, ask yourself:
- • Do they live with or come into regular close contact with anyone else? You may never see them, but they would still be considered part of your social circle.
- • What makes most sense for you or your household? That could include another household with similarly-aged children or family members that you want to spend more time with.
If you live alone, you may want to start with family members or other close friends. People may, or may not, choose to participate in a social circle depending on their unique circumstance, and risk of developing complications from COVID-19, for example people:
- over 70
- with compromised immune systems
- with underlying medical conditions
Remember that your social circle can include fewer than 10 people. It’s always best to start slow and safely add more members later.
Step 3: Get agreement from everyone that they will join the social circle
That means they agree to join only one circle, and physically distance with anyone outside the circle.
Essential workers can be part of a social circle, so long as the other members are aware of the risks and agree to them.
Step 4: Keep your social circle safe
To keep the people in your social circle safe:
- continue to follow public health advice, including frequent hand washing and sneezing and coughing into a sleeve
- continue to physically distance with anyone outside your circle by keeping two metres or six feet apart from them
If someone in your circle feels sick
They should immediately inform other members of the circle, self-isolate at home and not come into close contact with anyone, including other members of the circle.
They should also get tested.
Everyone else in the circle should closely monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19. If you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19 you should also be tested.
Step 5: Be true to your social circle
No one should be part of more than one circle.