If you’ve been staying home these last few months, going out into the world may be a bit overwhelming. There are new rules, additional expectations, and a lot more signage to pay attention to. Even though these changes will seem strange at first, they are in place to keep you safe and must be taken seriously. 

With lockdowns and stay at home orders in place, we recommend that locals stay home as much as possible and use this article to inspire future travel. Only venture out for essentials and if you feel comfortable doing so safely and in accordance with health guidelines. Better yet, buying gift cards and shopping online is a great way to show your support for these local businesses while staying safe. 

Here are eight things that you will likely see if you are out in Ontario’s Southwest.

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1. Masks

As of October 2, 2020, the Ontario Government has made it mandatory to wear masks in all indoor public areas and when you can’t keep two metres distance from someone that isn’t in your household. If you have any questions about masks, the Ontario government website has the most updated information and provides helpful information; for example, how to ensure that your mask is a proper fit.

You’ll notice that many businesses have started to create fashionable non-medical reusable masks in addition to their regular merchandise. Purchasing one is a great opportunity to support a local business.

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2. Social Distancing

You’ll notice that businesses are working hard to keep you 2 metres from other guests. Tables are spread out, lines have indications showing people where to stand, and there are arrows in tight aisles to tell people which way to walk to ensure that everyone is walking in the same direction. These new rules keep you 2 metres away from other people whenever physically possible.

So, when you are walking down the sidewalk, and someone moves to the other side of the street, it isn’t personal. Staying 2 metres from people outside of your household helps limit the spread of the virus. Please pay attention to signage and respect others by giving them the space that they need. You can learn more about physical distancing from the Ontario government’s website.

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3. Sanitation Procedures

Please don’t be offended when you are asked to use hand sanitizer prior to entering an establishment. This isn’t because the operators think you have bad hygiene. Again, they are trying to keep you, your family, and their employees safe by reducing the risk that you are carrying the virus on your hands. 

You also may notice that your seat, cart, table, or anything that you touched is thoroughly cleaned after you leave. Please pay attention to signage that will tell you where to put anything that you used. That way the items can be sanitized before the next person uses them. Even if you don’t feel sick, you could be carrying the virus and not know it. Cleaner is always safer.

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4. Barriers

Barriers add an extra protection for you and the people serving you. Not every business has barriers, but if you see them, please make sure to stand behind them when interacting with the person serving you.

Being behind a barrier and having a mask on may make it more difficult to be heard and to hear the server/cashier. Please be patient and keep your mask on. Make sure that you are speaking clearly to ensure that you are understood.

5. Advance Ticketing and Reservations

It’s normal to see line ups to get into buildings and public spaces. And now there are virtual line-ups, advance ticketing, and time-slot reservations to access certain locations. Limiting the number of people in any given location allows space for social distancing.

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6. Contactless Pay, Menus, and Shopping

You’ll notice that many places are no longer accepting cash and instead are asking for customers to pay using contactless methods. For example, using the “tap” feature on your credit/debit card or paying ahead online.

In addition, many restaurants are asking patrons to access their menus virtually by scanning a QR code with their phones. So, if you see people sitting at a table together all on their phones, they are likely just reading the menu and not necessarily ignoring each other. This reduces the risk of exposure by limiting frequent touch points.

Lastly, many businesses are offering online shopping and gift cards so that you can support your favourite small businesses from the comfort of your own home. Retail operators may have online shopping with shipping to your home available or curb-side pick-up. And restaurants often offer take-out and delivery options. Click here for local shops, restaurants, and more that offer contactless options.

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7. Contact Tracing

Don’t be alarmed if you are asked to provide your name, phone number, and other information prior to being admitted to a local business. This information is being collected so that the business can contact you if another customer within your vicinity tests positive for COVID-19. 

Contact tracing is also done through the government COVID Alert app. This app lets you know if you’ve been in the vicinity of someone that has tested positive for COVID-19. It does not retain or collect personal information about you.

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8. Remember that People are Doing Their Best

Please remember that this is a difficult time for many. Businesses are doing their absolute best to keep you, your family, and their employees safe. Please be kind and patient with them. Remember that it’s a stressful time for everyone. And when you see new rules at a local business, instead of complaining, consider thanking them for keeping you safe.

Please note that staying home is currently the top recommendation from the Ontario government to reduce your risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. If you choose to go out, here is a quick summary of how you can keep yourself and others safe while exploring Ontario’s Southwest:

  • Always stay two metres away from other people who aren’t in your household.
  • Bring hand sanitizer.
  • Wear a mask. Whenever you are in public spaces indoors or moving around, you must wear a mask.
  • Check the establishment’s COVID-19 procedures online prior to leaving your home.
  • Read and obey all signage to keep you safe.
  • Find out what zone you are in and limit any unnecessary travel to different zones. If you are in a zone with more restrictions, do not travel to a zone with less restrictions.
  • Be kind and patient with others as everyone is adjusting to the new normal.

Since recommendations are subject to change, please always check the government of Ontario website for updates related to COVID-19 best practices.