ontario social circle rules

This is how to build your social circle in Ontario and the rules you need to know

Ontario social circle rules may seem complex at first glance — but once you understand the details, forming your own circle is a simple way to reconnect with friends and family after months of isolation. 

The provincial government first introduced the concept last week, and they said the new rule would be effective immediately and apply to all regions province-wide.

"Ontarians should think of their circles as the people they can touch, hug and come into close contact as we continue our shared fight against COVID-19," said Health Minister Christine Elliott in a government release from June 12.

In other words, social circles are a group of people who all agree to be in a circle together. Once the circle is formed, members do not have to socially distance with one another as long as they stay true to their circle.

So if you're looking to form your family or social circle but you're not too sure where to start, here are a few simple steps to follow. 

First, take a look at your current circle. This refers to anyone you live with or who regularly comes into your household. Individuals who may already be part of your circle include family members, roommates, another parent to your child(ren) that lives outside the home, or a babysitter or caregiver. 

If, after evaluating your current situation, your circle amounts to less than 10 people, you can then add additional members. 

"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," notes the government's social circle webpage.

"Remember that everyone in a household must be part of the same social circle."

When adding new members to your circle, be sure to find out if they live with or come into regular close contact with anyone else. While you may never see these people directly, they would still be considered part of your social circle.

It's also important to think about what makes the most sense for you and your household as a whole. This may mean including another household with similarly-aged children or family members who've been isolated up until this point.

"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," the government says.

People who may choose to opt out of social circles and continue to self-isolate include those over 70 years old, anyone with compromised immune systems or someone with underlying medical conditions.

Next, Ontarians should get agreement from everyone that they will join the social circle. That means that every member must agree to join only one circle, and continue physically distancing with anyone outside the circle.

Essential workers that have no choice but to come into contact with other people for their jobs can still be part of a social circle, but other members must be aware of the risks and agree to them.

In order to keep social circles safe, every member should continue to follow public health advice — including frequent hand washing and sneezing and coughing into a sleeve, as well as physically distancing with anyone outside your circle by keeping two metres or six feet apart from them. 

If anyone in your circle feels sick at any point, 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 one of the province's many assessment centres.

Everyone else in the circle should closely monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19, and anyone who believes they may have been exposed to COVID-19 you should also be tested.

Finally, it's of the utmost importance that you remain true to your circle. As the provincial government has clearly stated, no one should be part of more than one circle.

And while nobody is required to follow this public health suggestion and form a social circle of their own, partaking in this option does have its benefits. 

The Ontario government says close contact with people beyond your household is important in order to reduce social isolation, support the mental health and wellbeing of residents during the outbreak, allowing some families to get additional support with child care, elder care and other personal needs, and allow for more rapid contact tracing in the event of a case of COVID-19 in a social circle. 

And remember, Ontario social circles are different than the provincial gathering limit, which allows groups of up to 10 people to gather at one time while physically distancing from one another.

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