The Dos and Don'ts of Social Gatherings

With the holiday season approaching, we must continue to gather and celebrate safely.


This time last year, we may have never imagined that we would have to spend yet another holiday season distanced from our friends, family and colleagues. While a lot of in-person activities have safely returned to our campuses, we must continue to practice healthy habits for the safety and wellbeing of our entire community—no one wants to bring Covid-19 home for the holidays! If you're thinking about planning a social gathering this holiday season, review the Events, Meetings and Gatherings directive and keep these points in mind:

DO - Prioritize virtual gatherings

While virtual gatherings may not have the same feel as an-in person events, they are the safest way to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. Throw on an ugly holiday sweater or festive accessories, decorate your home workspace, queue up some online games and celebrate with colleagues and peers from afar. In accordance with provincial public health restrictions, employees should be working from home where possible.

DON'T - Expect to be able to invite a crowd

While we are all excited to get back to some of our favourite in-person events on campus, there are still restrictions on indoor and outdoor events. In-person events with attendance of 100+ attendees, where the audience is not seated for the entire event with masks on, requires special approval by the Faculty Dean/Portfolio VP or Dean of Students, and the Public Health Response Team (PHRT). Outdoor events with an audience of more than 200 attendees require special approval. If your event can be delivered remotely, it should be. We need to stay familiar with Zoom for a little while longer.

DO - Ensure small in-person gatherings are safe

Many employees are working in-person on our campuses, and after more than a year of keeping our distance we are excited for the return of social activities. If you are planning an in-person gathering on campus, make sure it abides by U of A and provincial safety measures: keep it small (fewer than 50 people with adequate room for social distancing), ensure no one attends who is ill, make masks mandatory, wash hands and use hand sanitizer as needed and check for CampusReady passes. For holiday gatherings held off-campus it must be at a facility that has a Restriction Exemption Program in effect and not a private residence.

DON'T - Share food and drinks

While we all miss when a colleague would bring in a box of doughnuts for the team, communal food and drinks should be avoided at in-person gatherings. For an extra level of safety and comfort, avoid serving food or drinks to ensure attendees can keep their masks on the entire time.

DO - Share holiday greetings

Even though we can't gather as easily as we might like, sending a simple holiday greeting is an effective way to connect with others. A personalized message from one person to another is an authentic and much-appreciated gesture. Spread some holiday cheer by sending a virtual holiday card—Human Resources, Health, Safety and Environment offers a number of winter holiday-themed recognition e-cards employees and students can send.

All members of the U of A community should review the Events, Meetings and Gatherings directive and, if necessary, obtain the appropriate approvals before planning an in-person event.