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Stop the spread

As the highly transmissible Omicron variant spreads in Ontario, the province has announced  a temporary move to a modified Step Two of the Roadmap to Reopen. This move is intended to help blunt the current surge of transmission and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed during the province’s accelerated booster dose rollout. Under Step 2, additional provincial measures include reduced social gathering limits to 5 people indoors and 10 people outdoors, increased restrictions for certain businesses such as bars, restaurants and indoor recreational sports and fitness activities, enhanced work from home guidelines, and reduced capacity by 50 per cent for retail. See the province’s January 3, 2022, news release for more details

Along with the current restrictions, following all regular public health measures is important to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario. These measures include:
  • getting vaccinated (especially booster doses)
  • staying home when sick if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 
  • self-isolating if you’ve been advised of exposure to COVID-19 by a person who has tested positive or has symptoms, by the health unit or the COVID Alert mobile app
  • wearing a face mask
  • physical distancing
  • avoiding crowds
  • downloading the COVID Alert mobile app
  • limiting your contacts outside of your household members
  • being in a well-ventilated space 
  • handwashing
  • covering your sneeze or cough. 

NEW: Each public health measure acts as a layer of protection against COVID-19, with the strongest protection coming from getting vaccinated. As you combine each of these layers of protection, the safer you will be against the virus. Check out our Swiss cheese model graphic that shows how this works (adapted with permission from the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics)

A mask should be a well-fitted medical mask or a high-quality 3-layer cloth mask that fits properly, covering your nose, mouth and chin with no gaps to ensure that it effectively filters the air. 
You should wear a face mask when you:

  • are in a private residence and cannot physically distance from those outside of your household,
  • are at home and are sick or taking care of someone who is sick,
  • enter into any indoor space such as a restaurant, store and even a workplace that is not open to the public,
  • enter common areas of apartment buildings, condominium buildings, and student residences,
  • use public transit (e.g. bus, taxis or ride share) and
  • are outdoors and unable to physically distance from those outside of your household.

For more guidance on wearing masks see SMDHU’s FAQ - Wearing masks or face coverings within enclosed public spaces  - Step 2

Social gatherings are limited to 5 people indoors and 10 people outdoors. It is important to remember that knowing someone does not reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 therefore, virtual gatherings or events are still the safest way to gather or celebrate. 

If you choose to host or attend an in-person gathering or event, take precautions to reduce the risk of COVID-19.

Physical distancing and wearing a face mask when indoors with people who are not part of your household continues to be the safest way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Remember, indoor gatherings are limited to 5 people and to 10 people outdoors. In addition we recommend that:

  • Individuals who are NOT fully vaccinated against COVID-19 keep gatherings to only those within their household, unless physical distancing is practised and/or face masks are worn.
  • Individuals who ARE fully vaccinated are advised to keep gatherings to a small number of people outside of their household. For the protection of all, preferably everyone should be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

If you are hosting a gathering:

  • Keep guests to under 5 for indoor gatherings and 10 for outdoor gatherings. 
  • 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.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces.
  • Provide all the necessary supplies for your guests, including hand sanitizer, soap and water.
  • Open windows, if possible.
  • If you are serving food and drinks, wash your hands often while preparing and serving food and suggest all those gathered do so before and after eating.

If you are invited to a gathering:

  • Stay home if you are ill, even if your symptoms are mild.
  • If you are immunocompromised or at higher risk of severe disease and/or exposure to COVID-19, consider joining virtually or not attending the event.

If you are attending a gathering:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Cover any cough or sneeze.
  • Consider wearing a face mask if physical distancing is not possible.

Overnight guests:

  • Ensure hand sanitizer, soap and water are available, and wash your hands often.
  • Individuals from multiple households who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or status is unknown should practise physical distancing (2 metres at all times) and wear face masks.
  • Hosts and guests from multiple households who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or status is unknown should not sleep in the same bedroom and should use separate washrooms, if possible. 
  • Avoid singing or shouting, especially indoors.
  • Monitor for COVID-19 symptoms (hosts and guest).
  • Have a plan for what to do if someone becomes ill, even with mild symptoms.

Outdoor gatherings or events:

Organizers:

  • Encourage participants to be vaccinated.
  • Where possible, provide handwashing stations and/or alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing 60-90% alcohol content. Encourage participants to frequently wash hands with soap and water if possible and bring alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the event.  

- Post signage to reinforce these messages. Sample signage can be found here.

  • Consider hosting a drive-in or drive-thru event.

If attending an outdoor event:

Attending an organized outdoor event is likely safer than an indoor event but the risk of COVID-19 spread is still there. If you choose to participate in outdoor events continue to follow these public health measures:

  • Stay home if you are ill, even if your symptoms are mild. If you have COVID-19 symptoms get tested and self-isolate.
  • Download the COVID Alert mobile app.
  • Avoid crowds and maintain physical distancing of at least 2 metres (6 feet) from anyone outside your household.
  • Wear a face mask when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Sneeze and cough into your upper sleeve or elbow, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. 
  • Consider alternatives (e.g. signs, banners) to shouting or chanting to avoid spreading droplets.

 

 

Effective December 15, 2021: Avoid non-essential travel outside Canada, regardless of your vaccination status.

In effect: Fully vaccinated travellers who have been in any country other than Canada and the United States in the 14 days prior to entry to Canada may be selected for arrival testing. They must quarantine in a suitable place until they receive a negative test result. They may take public transportation (for example, connecting flights) to their place of quarantine.

Visit Health Canada’s website for more information about COVID-19 travel.

Under Step 2 hunting and fishing are allowed. If you hunt or fish please keep the following in mind:

  • Access to hunting and fishing grounds may be limited due to COVID-19 regulations, bylaws and landowner restrictions. Before leaving home, check with the local municipality or landowner to determine if access is available and if the hunting and fishing grounds are open. 
  • Before going hunting/fishing, complete a COVID-19 self-assessment and follow the direction provided. Stay home if you have COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Pack supplies that help prevent the spread of COVID-19 (e.g. hand soap, alcohol based hand sanitizer with 60-90% alcohol content, face masks, cleaning/disinfectant supplies).
  • Ideally, hunt or fish with people from your household to continue to limit the transmission risk of COVID-19. If it is necessary to hunt/fish with people from outside of your household the following measures are also recommended:
    o travel in separate vehicles
    o maintain a 2-metre (6 feet) distance between people when travelling and hunting/fishing and
    o Wear a face mask indoors, outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained, and where otherwise required.

We acknowledge that peaceful protests and rallies are a way for individuals to express themselves and their beliefs. Given the ongoing transmission of COVID-19, it is strongly encouraged that individuals consider alternate ways to participate in protests/rallies such as using social media and virtual protests.

Before joining a peaceful protest, consider the overall risk of infection to yourself and others. For more details on caseload and rate of infection in our community, visit the COVID-19 HealthSTATS page.

How to stay safe while attending a protest/ rally

Participation in virtual protest activities is the safest means of protesting during COVID-19 and is strongly advised over in-person protest activities.

Those who choose to participate in an organized protest or rally event should do so in the safest way possible to protect themselves and others. At a minimum, the following measures should be communicated by organizers and followed by all participants:

  • Encourage participants to be vaccinated. 
  • Before going to a rally/protest, complete a COVID-19 self-assessment and follow the direction provided. Stay home if you have COVID-19 symptoms. 
  • Maintain physical distancing of at least 2 metres (6 feet). Wear a face mask when physical distancing cannot be maintained. Sneeze and cough into your upper sleeve or elbow, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
    o Post signage to reinforce these messages. Sample signage can be found here.
  • Where possible, provide handwashing stations and/or alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing 60-90% alcohol content. Encourage participants to frequently wash hands with soap and water if possible and bring alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the event.
  • Consider alternatives (e.g. signs, banners) to shouting or chanting to avoid spreading droplets. 

Getting exercise and taking part in physical activity is important for our health.

If you choose to use public spaces such as parks and trails be aware that there is a risk of people congregating close together and spreading COVID-19.

The following are recommendations to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 when visiting outdoor public spaces (e.g. municipal or public parks, hiking paths and trails, dog parks, playgrounds):

  • If you are feeling ill or displaying symptoms (i.e. fever, cough, difficulty breathing, muscle aches, fatigue, headache, sore throat, runny nose) or if you have come into contact with someone who has shown symptoms or has tested positive, you are not to visit the outdoor public space. 
  • Read all posted signs including screening signs at all entrances and ensure everyone self-screens before entering the space. 
  • Maintain a physical distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet) from others at all times and especially while in places where people tend to congregate, such as parking lots, trailheads and scenic overlooks. 
  • If physical distancing is difficult to maintain in the outdoor space, wear a face mask.
  • Avoid close contact with people outside your household, such as shaking hands, hugging, high-fives, or games involving shared items. 
  • Wash or sanitize your hands as you arrive. 
  • Do not share equipment with people outside of your household. 

It is important to know that there is currently no evidence of food or food packaging being linked to the spread of COVID-19. You’re more likely to be infected by your fellow shoppers than anything you purchase. There are things you can do to reduce your risks when shopping.

When you are shopping:

  • You must wear a face mask when shopping indoors, and if shopping outdoors (i.e. farmers’ market) and physical distancing is not possible. Exceptions for the use of face masks are provided in O. Reg. 263/20.
  • Be respectful of store employees. They are doing their best in a difficult situation.
  • Clean the handle of your cart.
  • Bring your own wipes and hand sanitizer; although the stores have been trying hard to keep a public stock, the supplies are short.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands as you enter and after to get into your car.
  • Keep your distance from others while in the store. Staying 2 metres or roughly 2 arms-length (6 feet) apart is an easy way to measure your distance.
  • Handle only the items you intend to buy.
  • Use a credit or debit card to avoid handling money or receiving change.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Know that gloves are not necessary and offer no added protection. Frequent handwashing is key.

Back at home:

  • Follow the drop-off or pick-up instructions given by the restaurant or grocery store.
  • Ask for the food to be left on the doorstep.
  • Minimize contact with employees. Stay 2 metres (6 feet) apart from the delivery person.
  • If picking up food or groceries, consider opening the car door or trunk latch yourself so the person loading does not touch your car handles.
  • Use touch-free or cashless payments.
  • Prepay via the internet or telephone for your delivery order.
  • Remove your food from the external packaging and dispose of it in the garbage or recycling right away.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Wash your hands well for 15 seconds after touching packaging and before eating.

Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials! When planning your wedding, you will need to adhere to the current public health measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

The COVID-19 Checklist for Planning a Wedding – Step 2 (revised January 7, 2022) can help guide the planning of your wedding in Step 2 of the province’s Roadmap to Reopen.


For weddings, funerals and other religious services, rites or ceremonies:

  • Indoor weddings, funerals and other religious services, rites or ceremonies are permitted with capacity limited of 50 per cent and physical distancing of 2 metres if held at a place of worship. If held at a private dwelling indoors, capacity is limited to 5 persons.
  • Outdoor weddings, funerals and other religious services, rites or ceremonies are permitted with a capacity limited to allow for physical distancing of 2 metres. If held at a private dwelling, outdoors, capacity is limited to 10 persons.
  • Guests must wear a face mask indoors and outdoors when they are within 2 metres (6 feet) of another person who is not part of their household.

Drive-in services, rites or ceremonies permitted, subject to certain conditions.

Virtual services are permitted and strongly advised. If attending a service inperson follow these recommendations:

  • All individuals must be actively screened for COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • A face mask is required when indoors and recommended for outdoors when it is difficult to maintain physical distance.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Avoid close contact (hugging, kissing, hand shaking) with persons outside of your household.

Receptions are considered social gatherings and capacity is based on the setting. Please see the planning a wedding checklist for further details.

Page last updated: January 17, 2022

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