Ontarians have recently been given the go ahead from the province to build social circles of ten people. What exactly does this mean and how does a social circle work for those in a homeshare scenario?
The province has suggested that a person be part of only one social circle of up to ten people, the CBC reports. Social distancing is not required within this social circle (also referred to as a social bubble). "Think of your social circle as the people you can touch, hug and have close contact with as we continue the fight against COVID-19," Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said, adding "Be true to your social circle. No one should be part of more than one circle."
If your current household already includes up to 10 people, then the province says you cannot expand it further. For those in a home share arrangement, the members of your existing household are the basis of your existing social circle, whether there are two, three, four or more of you.
If you have room to add people to your social circle, sit down and discuss with your housemate(s) who those people should be, keeping in mind a need for fairness when choosing which family and friends to include. Remember, the maximum number is ten, so this may require some negotiation and thought. Those in high-risk groups should be extremely careful about who joins their social circle.
According to the CBC, "The province says that to form a safe social circle, Ontarians should follow these simple steps:
Step 1: Start with your current circle: the people you live with or who regularly come into your household.
Step 2: If your current circle is under 10 people, you can add members to your circle, including another household, family members or friends.
Step 3: Get agreement from everyone that they will join the circle.
Step 4: Keep your social circle safe. Maintain physical distancing with anyone outside of your circle.
Step 5: Be true to your social circle. No one should be part of more than one circle."
Here are some other tips housemates should consider when forming a social circle:
Consider proximity. For example, if you have a son or daughter in another city and your housemate has a son or daughter close by, it may make more sense to include your housemate's children rather than your own because you are less likely to see them regularly. Remember, you can still socially gather with those outside of your social circle, but you must remain at least 2 meters apart when doing so.
Consider day-to-day needs. For example, if your housemate doesn't drive, but has a neighbour willing to take them to medical appointments, it may make sense to include that neighbour in your social circle.
Consider safety. Some people have a high-risk job like those in the medical profession. Consider that these people will be less likely to control who they are in contact with and thus, may be a riskier choice to add to your social circle.
Consider mental health. Some people are having a harder time with social distancing than others. Be honest with yourself and your housemates about your mental state and keep this in mind as you work together to build your social circle.
Social Circles vs Social Gatherings
It's important to keep in mind that social circles and social gatherings are different. While you don't need to social distance with those in your social circle, you do need to social distance and keep at least two metres away from those in a social gathering. As part of Ontario's reopening the province recommends that "people can still gather in public spaces in groups of up to 10 with those outside of their expanded circle, but they have to stay two meters apart," CBC reports.
While the province has begun to slowly open, it's important to remain safe and follow local health guidelines. Open communication remains critical to ensure the safety of everyone in your homeshare arrangement. Contact the team at HomeShare Alliance for more tips and advice about homesharing safely.