COVID-19: Advice for gatherings, events and celebrations

Public health advice across Canada varies widely due to local situations, which are rapidly changing. It’s important that you:

  • continue to follow the recommendations and restrictions of your local public health authority, including gathering size limits
  • assess the risks before going out and make informed decisions to keep yourself and others safe
  • continue to layer individual public health measures regardless of vaccination status

Consider postponing, cancelling or changing your plans if you feel the situation may not be safe for you or others.

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The importance of public health measures

COVID-19 can spread at your gathering, event or celebration, even if everyone’s fully vaccinated.

Although COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada can protect against severe illness, no vaccine is 100% effective. We now know that:

This is why practising public health measures continues to be important to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, regardless of your vaccination status. They may also help reduce the spread of other respiratory illnesses like the flu. Public health measures are most effective when layered together and used alongside vaccination.

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Attending or hosting a gathering

Follow this advice when attending or hosting a gathering, event or celebration with people from outside your immediate household. This advice should be considered in addition to the advice of local public health authorities, not as a replacement.

Follow local public health advice

Check with your local public health authority to find out about:

  • requirements in place for public or private settings, such as:
    • mask mandates
    • capacity restrictions
    • screening requirements, which may include questions about symptoms, possible exposures, recent travel and vaccination status
    • gathering restrictions, like size limits, for both indoor and outdoor settings
  • event cancellations
  • quarantine requirements for travellers

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Assess your risk

Resources are available to help you assess your risk and make informed decisions before you attend or host a gathering, event or celebration:

Your risk may be higher depending on the:

  • vaccination coverage and COVID-19 activity in:
    • your area and
    • the area of the people you’re gathering with
  • setting you’re going to be in and if public health measures are in place
  • vaccination status and personal risk factors of yourself or your household members and the people you’re gathering with

Consider postponing, cancelling or changing your plans if you feel the situation may not be safe for you or others.

Reduce your risk

Regardless of your vaccination status, when gathering with people from outside your immediate household, you should:

  • keep up to date with and consistently maintain all individual public health measures, such as:
    • staying home when sick
    • improving ventilation
      • opening doors and windows regularly, even for a few minutes at a time will help
    • wearing a mask
  • focus on quality over quantity
    • keep gatherings as few and as small as possible
    • avoid large office or work parties
  • choose lower-risk activities and settings
    • for example, gather outdoors if possible or in a well-ventilated indoor space
  • limit non-essential outings and travel as much as possible before and after the gathering to limit COVID-19 exposure risks

Recommendations for some measures may change over time in response to the evolving COVID-19 situation.

In addition, before gathering, make sure to complete your primary COVID-19 vaccination series and get your booster dose when eligible.

Check where you can get a booster dose.

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Check in with the host

If you’re attending a gathering, event or celebration, check in with the host ahead of time. Ask about which public health measures will be in place during the event.

Stay safe if you’re at risk of more severe disease or outcomes

If you’re at risk of more severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19, you should:

  • use caution in higher-risk settings and activities
  • wear a medical mask if you’ll be around people you don’t live with, especially if you’ll be indoors or in any crowded settings
    • you may also consider wearing a respirator
      • if a medical mask or respirator isn’t available, properly wear a well-constructed and well-fitting non-medical mask
  • think about how you can safely celebrate with others, like:
    • gathering outdoors if possible
    • taking part in virtual celebrations
    • layering multiple individual public health measures

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Limit alcohol and other substance use

Try to limit your use of alcohol and other substances so you can make safer decisions and are better able to follow public health measures. If you do use alcohol and other substances, think ahead about how to reduce your health risks.

Visit the Wellness Together Canada portal for a wide range of mental health and substance use resources. It’s available 24/7 and offers free and confidential services, such as professional one-on-one counselling for people of all ages across Canada. Call 1-866-585-0445 or visit the site.

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Know what to do with your rapid test result

If you use a rapid test, you need to know what to do with your result.

If your rapid test result is positive:

  • immediately isolate yourself away from others, including those in your household
  • follow local public health advice (they may recommend you get tested at a designated site)
  • do not attend any gathering, event or celebration or have non-household members in your home

If your rapid test result is negative:

  • you may still be in the early stages of infection and can potentially infect others
  • continue using caution when gathering with others, by:
    • keeping gatherings few and small
    • choosing lower-risk activities and settings
    • layering individual public health measures, such as
      • staying home when sick
      • improving ventilation
      • wearing a well-fitting mask

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Extra steps for hosts

If you’re planning on hosting a gathering, event or celebration, it’s important that you:

As the host, you can also:

Know what to do if someone becomes sick during your gathering, event or celebration. Consult with your local public health authority and follow your area’s COVID-19 reporting requirements.

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Large gatherings, events and celebrations

Larger gatherings, events and celebrations like weddings and festivals can be higher risk than smaller ones. This is because they typically involve a large number of guests from different households with varying levels of risk.

If you’re organizing a large gathering, event or celebration, consider what you can do to help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 in your setting.

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Holidays

During holidays, people may need to make difficult decisions about celebrations. Always show kindness and respect to others by following public health measures.

Travel

When travelling, you should understand the risks and consider the impacts that travel may have on you, your family and your community.

It’s important to remain safe during your entire journey, particularly in:

  • shuttles and taxis
  • public transportation (such as buses, trains and subways)
  • airports
  • airplanes
  • marine vessels

To reduce your risk, follow the advice for travelling safely.

  • Get fully vaccinated with an approved complete COVID-19 vaccine series at least 14 days before travelling.
    • Make sure you have a copy of your Canadian COVID-19 proof of vaccination.
    • Get your mRNA COVID-19 vaccine booster dose when you’re eligible.
  • Follow all public health advice, including individual and community-based public health measures.
  • If leaving Canada, confirm the requirements for entry at your destination and upon your return to Canada, which include:
    • testing and quarantine
    • acceptable COVID-19 vaccines
    • proof of vaccination required

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Shopping

If shopping in public spaces, plan ahead to avoid crowds and follow individual public health measures while shopping. Shop online or use curbside pickup to reduce your risk of exposure.

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Mental health

Feelings of stress are common during the holidays and the COVID-19 pandemic may amplify them. While it’s normal to feel a range of emotions during this time, you may be experiencing:

  • worry about finances and gift giving
  • fear of getting sick with COVID-19 or of making others sick
  • family conflict resulting from differences in risk comfort level
  • sadness about breaking important family traditions or being away from loved ones

Take care of your mental health. Try reaching out to a supportive friend or family member to talk about any difficult emotions you may be feeling.

Know that it’s okay to skip family gatherings to protect yourself, your family and your community.

Let your loved ones know ahead of time if you don’t feel comfortable gathering. Stay virtually connected to your friends and family through:

  • phone and video calls
  • emails
  • text messages

If you live alone, consider spending the holidays with another household. Think about the risks and follow gathering precautions.

Visit the Wellness Together Canada portal for a wide range of mental health and substance use resources. It’s available 24/7 and offers free and confidential services, such as professional one-on-one counselling for people of all ages across Canada. Call 1-866-585-0445 or visit the site.

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