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Recommendations for Celebrating the Holidays


Relationships with family and friends are important, and being social is part of human nature. It offers a multitude of benefits for our mental health and helps us feel connected to one another. Right now, it is important to maintain social connections, but also do what we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There are many things you can do to make holiday or other social gatherings special, but still protect those you care about.

If you are thinking about getting together with individuals outside of your household, remember:

  • The safest way to celebrate or visit with individuals outside of your household is by gathering virtually.
  • Even if you are friends with someone, the risk of transmitting COVID-19 still exists and is not reduced because you know each other. 
  • Everyone should limit close contact with others to individuals living in your household, even when celebrating occasions or at events.
  • Individuals who live alone, including seniors, can have close contact with another household to prevent social isolation and safeguard their mental health.
  • If you are interacting with individuals who are outside of your household, a physical distance of 2 metres should be maintained at all times.  If physical distancing cannot be maintained, wear a face covering.

General Advice on Gatherings

  • Outdoor gatherings or events are safer than indoor. Whether you are outside or inside, physical distancing of 2 metres must still be maintained with individuals outside of your household. 
  • All gatherings must follow the current restrictions and guidelines.
  • Gatherings with as few guests as possible will have a lower risk of COVID-19 transmission. 
  • Stay home if you have symptoms, even if mild, or you recently had a negative COVID-19 test.

Safety Recommendations for Hosts

  • Pre-determine how many people can easily maintain physical distancing in the space, without exceeding the current gathering limits.
  • Limit your number of guests as much as possible and use outdoor spaces whenever possible. 
  • Promote physical distancing at your event. For example, arrange seating in advance that is appropriately spaced. 
  • Provide supplies such as hand sanitizer, soap and water, and disposable masks.
  • To limit people touching the same objects, plan for how guests will use them, and ensure they are clean.  
  • Open windows, if possible. 
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces. 
  • Asks guests to stay home if they have symptoms, even if mild, or they recently had a negative COVID-19 test.
  • Make a guest list in case the WECHU needs to conduct contract tracing.
  • Remind guests ahead of time to follow public health guidelines, including physical distancing, wearing a face covering if physical distancing cannot be maintained, and frequent hand washing.
  • If you are planning on serving food or drinks:
    • Wash your hands before and frequently during preparation. 
    • Avoid buffet-style food service and make sure you can maintain physical distance while serving and cleaning up food.
    • Serve food on individual plates to prevent your guests from passing and touching the same objects.
    • Ask everyone to wash their hands before and after eating.

Safety Recommendations for Guests

  • Do not attend if you have any symptoms, even if mild, or you recently had a negative COVID-19 test.
  • Limit close contact with others to individuals living in your household.
  • Maintain a two metre physical distance from individuals who do not live in your household.
  • Wear a face covering indoors and wear one outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer regularly throughout the event.
  • Ask in advance what the plan is for using washrooms and providing food or drinks, ensuring people are not touching the same objects. 
  • Consider participating virtually or not attending the event if you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19, including if you are 70 years or older, are immunocompromised or have underlying medical conditions.

Safety Guide for Holiday Donations in Windsor-Essex

The holidays are an opportunity to spread kindness and joy, and to come together as a community. One way to spread extra holiday cheer to individuals and families this year is to make a donation to a local charity or organization. Below are some tips for community members, charities, and organizations for safely preparing and distributing donations.

Guidance for Community Members

How to prepare items for donation

  • Contact the charity or organization to learn what items are in need or being accepted.
  • Try to choose items that come in packaging, or have hard/non-permeable surfaces (such as plastic) and are easy to clean and disinfect.
  • Wash or sanitize hands before handling donation items.
  • Wipe down the item, package, or non-perishable food package with an approved low level disinfectant if possible, prior to taking to a donation centre.
  • Avoid participating in gift donating if feeling ill.

After receiving a donated item

  • Wash or sanitize hands before and after handling donated items.
  • Wash clothing according to the manufacturer’s instructions, using the warmest appropriate water setting and dry completely.
  • Toys with hard surfaces should be cleaned with an approved low level disinfectant, and soft surface toys should be washed if possible or cleaned using soap and water, or with cleaners appropriate for use on these surfaces.

Guidance for Organizers, Employees, and Volunteers of Charities and Organizations

  • Determine the capacity of volunteers and employees working in a space to ensure there will be enough room to physically distance individuals 6 feet or 2 metres from each other, while following current capacity restrictions.
  • Require all volunteers, employees, and members of the public to wear a mask or face covering prior to entering the building, except in the case they have a medical exemption.
  • Print and post clearly visible floor markings and wall signage promoting:
    • physical distancing between individuals,
    • maximum capacity of rooms,
    • frequent hand washing,
    • proper wearing of face masks, and
    • symptom screening
  • Signage can be ordered or downloaded:
  • Provide hand sanitizing stations with alcohol-based sanitizer (minimum 60% alcohol) at entrances and exits, and throughout the facility for ease of access.
  • Ensure that volunteers and employees sanitize hands upon entering and before exiting.
  • Keep a daily record including the dates and times of shifts, and the names of employees and volunteers working. This will assist with contact tracing if needed.
  • Screen each employee or volunteer daily before they enter the building or before their scheduled shift.
  • Train all employees and volunteers on all protocols and procedures prior to their first shift.

Ask that all individuals (including staff and volunteers) complete the online COVID-19 Self-Assessment screening tool from the Ontario Ministry of Health, each day before they enter the building and/or before their scheduled shift, and follow the guidance for self-isolation or testing as provided.

  • Arrange for drive thru or curbside receiving of items if possible.
  • Post directional signage to help community members clearly navigate to keep traffic flow in one direction, and communicate all procedures.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces such as collection tables, and door handles at least twice per day with an approved disinfectant. Use only disinfectants that have a Drug Identification Number (DIN). A DIN is an 8-digit number given by Health Canada that confirms it is approved for use in Canada. Assign someone at each shift to take on this role. Review the Cleaning Disinfection for Public Settings document for more information.
  • Do not remove new, donated items from the original packaging.
  • For unpackaged, hard surfaced items, (e.g. sports balls, kitchen utensils) wipe down the item with an approved low level disinfectant before distributing.
  • If plastic totes or bins with handles are being used to distribute items, wipe them down with an approved low level disinfectant before distributing.
  • Unloading and Organizing bulk donations with truck operators/drivers:
    • Collect donations from the edge of the truck.
    • Wait until the driver/operator has placed the goods down and moved away from the donation, to help keep a 6 ft/2m distance from others.
    • Wear a face covering if physical distancing is not possible.
  • Arrange for drive thru or curbside pick-up of items if possible. Ask clients to open their trunk and remain in their vehicle.
  • Post directional signage to help community members clearly navigate to keep traffic flow in one direction, and communicate all procedures.

For walk-in pick-ups:

  • Post signage outside of the entrance stating masks are required before entering, and to not enter if you are sick.
  • Post signage to communicate the maximum capacity per room. Indoor capacity should be limited to ensure physical distancing of 2 metres can be maintained between individuals at all times, and in any event shall not exceed current capacity restrictions.
  • Signage can be ordered or downloaded:
  • Minimize the gathering of clients by having a volunteer screen before they enter the pick up/distribution area and monitor the number of clients.
  • Help individuals and families from different households space themselves adequately by clearly marking with tape or stickers where they should stand, or set up chairs with 6 feet between them.
  • Place a hand sanitizing station at the entrance with a minimum 60% alcohol-based sanitizer.

For delivery to homes or other organizations:

  • Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer to delivery persons, as well as disinfectant wipes to clean frequently touched surfaces (e.g. door handles, steering wheel). Delivery persons should clean their hands between deliveries.
  • Practice physical distancing and do not pass donations directly to others by hand. When possible, deliveries should be contactless, with items being left at the door.

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