Change is never simple.

As of Friday, July 16, Ontario has entered Step 3 of its provincial reopening plan. That means in addition to being able to get a haircut and finally have that long-awaited charcuterie picnic with your friends, you can also now dine indoors and hit the gym – but it also means, while doing so, you have to consider some new social circumstances.

To keep ourselves, our loved ones and our communities safe, we have to take special care while having summer fun. So, here are some tips for responsible socializing as Ontario reopens:

Keep your distance

You might feel OK standing inches away from strangers in a line for the bathroom (“I am wearing a mask, after all”). Others might not.

They could live with someone immunocompromised or be immunocompromised themselves. They may have just returned from an out-of-province business trip. Or, maybe they’re simply re-adjusting to being in public and mitigating some anxiety.

The point is: you don’t know other peoples’ circumstances. So, don’t take it personally if others seem anxious or avoidant and give them space when possible.

Draw your boundaries

Just as you don’t know other peoples’ circumstances, they don’t know yours.

It’s 100 per cent normal, and expected, if reopening is invoking some mixed feelings in you. Maybe you’re excited you can see people again – but you’re not ready to dive into a hug or attend a backyard barbecue with a dozen people.

That’s OK. Just say no. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.

Will Smith as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air says, "Nah. Nah. That's alright. No, really, bye."

Choose your sites wisely

Try to meet up in less-crowded parks (sorry, Trinity Bellwoods – we still love you), dine at restaurants with spaced-out patios or during off-peak times and shop on slow days.

Tip your servers

As much as you can. The pandemic has been especially hard on service workers – so, if you’re in a position to enjoy drinks and apps on a patio, you can show respect by tipping well.

A full tip jar.

Clean your hands

Always, but especially now. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds regularly and, when that’s not possible, sanitize with an alcohol-based cleanser.

Wear your mask

We know we’re not the first people to tell you this. But repetition helps you remember.

Even with easing restrictions, masks or face coverings are still mandatory under the Reopening Ontario Act. So, keep one with you when you leave home and wear it in settings like indoor public spaces, workplaces, ride shares and outdoors when physical distancing isn’t possible.

People wearing masks.

And, yes, that still applies if you’re vaccinated.

For one, wearing a mask can help prevent the highly infectious delta variant from spreading. Second, vaccines mainly protect you from getting COVID-19; wearing a mask helps protect others. (Of course, there is crossover – because vaccines protect you from getting COVID-19, they also protect others because you’re less likely to transmit it to them. But you get the picture.)

Long story short: mask up when you go out.

Arthur characters put on masks.

We all want to have an unforgettable summer. Let’s stay safe and protect each other while we do.

Safety first – check out one IGNITE writer’s experience receiving her COVID-19 vaccine.

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