On June 12, the Province of Ontario announced the new concept of social circles. Social circles are a way to safely expand the number of people with whom you can come in close contact. Think of your social circle as the people you can hug and touch, or those who can become part of your daily and weekly routines.
What is the difference between a social circle and a social gathering? Social circles allow close contact with the same 10 people who are part of your circle. Social gatherings can be any group of up to 10 people, but physical distance must be maintained.
You can now establish a family or social circle of no more than 10 people who can interact with one another without physical distancing.
Everyone living in the same household is automatically in a social circle.
People in the same social circle:
- do not have to physically distance
- can hug and touch each other
- should continue to follow public health advice to protect one another, including physically distancing when around people outside of the social circle.
Close contact and connections with people outside of your household is important during these times, as connections can assist in supporting mental health, reducing social isolation, allowing for support for child, elder and self care, along with assisting in the contact tracing process.
How to create 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, chose 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 at an assessment centre.
Step 5: Be true to your social circle
No one should be part of more than one circle!
What is the difference between social circles and social gatherings?
Let’s look at an example:
Mike is in a social circle with his 3 children, his parents, and their babysitter. They know they are part of the same ONE social circle and cannot join another social circle. Now when they spend time together, they do not need to physically distance. They can have close contact like hugs, sit together for a meal, play together, etc.
But, when Mike goes to work and has a meeting with 4 of his coworkers, this is considered a social gathering. Gatherings up to 10 people are permitted, but Mike needs to keep a physical distance of 2 metres from his coworkers who are outside of his social circle.