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Wear those masks and keep your distance, Ottawa! Photo: Ross Dunn/Apt613 Flickr pool.

The new normal is here to stay awhile

By Ottawa Public Health on August 24, 2020

This post was written by Ottawa Public Health staff and submitted to Apartment613.

Ottawa, it’s been almost six months since COVID-19 swept through our city. The days of friend-hugging, bar-hopping, and food-sharing seem so far away now… So much has changed! That said, thanks to all of our collective hard work, things are starting to look a bit more normal. Or, at least a “new” normal.

Whether we like it or not, COVID-19 is here for a while longer and this is our new normal. By making small changes to our everyday lives we can learn to protect each other. The basics like mask wearing, hand-washing, staying home when sick, and physical distancing are still the best defence we have against COVID-19.

Sure, it’s cool to sit on a patio – with members of your social circle. Photo: Ottawa Public Health.


We’ve all experienced the terrible sinking feeling you get when you go to the grocery store and realize you left your mask back in the car, or worse – at home. We know we need to wear them, but like your wallet or keys, masks are easy to forget.

One tip to try is keeping your cloth mask in a small bag or on the keyring beside your car/house keys, so you remember it when you go out the door! If you travel by car, keep an extra mask in your back seat or glove compartment just in case the keyring idea doesn’t stick.

If you’re putting on and taking off your mask multiple times during one outing, place the mask in a clean bag – not your pocket – and practice good hand hygiene before and after you handle your mask. If wearing a disposable mask, you can also re-use it during a single day if it is not damp, damaged, or dirty and has been stored appropriately between uses. Remember to throw it out after a full day’s wear in a lined garbage bin.


Good ol’ hand-washing! Wash your hands regularly – especially before eating or touching your face – with soap and water for at least 20 seconds OR sing “Happy Birthday” twice in your head. If you’re feeling down because COVID-19 kiboshed your birthday celebrations, singing the chorus of your favourite song twice would also work. It’s the easiest way to protect yourself and others… the hand-washing, that is (not the singing).

We know it’s not always realistic to be near a sink, so using hand sanitizer is a great alternative in a pinch. If a store offers hand sanitizer, use it! You can also bring your own and use it before and after you handle your mask. If you’re hosting a get-together, have hand sanitizer available for guests who may not want to come inside to use a sink and soap.

Can’t get to a sink? Sanitizer is the next best option to hand-washing. Photo: Ottawa Public Health.

Sick? Stay home.

If you’re feeling sick, PLEASE stay home! No shift or outing is worth spreading COVID-19. We’ve said many times that we’re all in this together, and every one of us doing our part today will pay dividends in the long run. And just as employees can help by staying home when sick, employers can help by being flexible to ensure people are able to stay home when unwell or to care for a loved one with symptoms of illness.

For individuals, before going to work or the next time you’re invited to a birthday party or beach trip, do a self check-in and rule out the possibility of COVID-19 before you go. Remember: Minor symptoms for you could be life-threatening for someone else.

Physical distancing

Social circles are a new concept for all of us. A social circle is made up of an exclusive group of up to 10 people who don’t need to physically distance from each other and can hug and share a close space (note: 10 is the maximum, but less is always better).

Choosing who will be a part of your social circle is an important decision, as every member’s actions will have a large impact on the health of the group. Social circles should be clearly communicated between individuals/households. Once you agree to be in a social circle, no switching, trading or renegotiating! Everyone should only be in one circle at a time and physically distance from everyone outside that group.

One way to reduce your risk of COVID-19 is to keep your social circle as small as possible and only include people you know and trust. Be #SocialWise when attending gatherings with those outside your circle by physically distancing, wearing a mask and staying home if you are sick!

Watch your distance from others when in public. Photo: Ottawa Public Health.

Working together to incorporate these basics into our everyday lives is how we will learn to protect each other. Although things aren’t quite the same, let’s make the best out of it and adapt to this new normal together! If you have any tips that have made your life with COVID-19 easier, share it with us on social media!