How to safely enjoy the summer of coronavirus in Toronto

Rules for hanging out, eating, having sex and travelling in this strange summer season


While there is certainly something about summer that screams no rules, when it comes to this one there are more than ever, which can make it tough to envision a season of any kind of fun. After all, who wants to stay indoors 24/7 when the sun is out?

The good news is some parts of the city are reopening and you can go outside – as long as you follow some key guidelines to protect yourself, your friends, family and community. 

Gathering with friends

While it is preferable to gather outside rather than inside, physical distancing measures do still apply, whether you’re attending a backyard barbecue or porch hang-out. You can now expand your close social circle in your household to 10, but the gathering limit outside your household is also currently 10 people, all of whom must remain two metres apart. Remember: The greater the number of attendees and the longer you stay at the gathering, the greater the risk, so limit your time and group size. Be sure to wash your hands before arriving and after you leave, and wear a face covering if it’s tough to remain physically distanced. 

Avoid sharing a bathroom if possible and try to avoid events where sharing food is involved. If that’s unavoidable, and you’re stopping by a birthday party, for example, your bigger concern is not so much the food itself being contaminated, but how you interact with others while eating. Remain at a distance while you eat to avoid inadvertently spitting in the direction of anyone. Don’t eat off anyone’s plate, and before you touch any platters or reach for the bowl of potato chips for the 27th time, sanitize your hands. Don’t drop by at all if you’re experiencing symptoms of any kind. SA

Sex and dating

What is a summer without a summer fling, you ask? Not necessarily a dry one! Sure, self-love gets old, especially after months of isolation, but it’s still the best way to stay safe during the pandemic. Just remember to wash your hands and your sex toys before and after. Otherwise, try a socially distanced outdoor date, and stick to one person rather than serial dating, even if there’s a two-metre gap between you. (Consider that gap a rising sexual tension that will build to glorious results – eventually.) Avoid the small stuff, too, including kissing, hugging and nuzzling noses if that’s what you’re into. If you have an impressive wingspan, you may still be able to hold hands and maintain a two-metre distance but, unfortunately, there are no loopholes here. 

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SAMUEL ENGELKING

So if you do decide to take the risk and break the distance between, as some inevitably will, ensure your partner does not have symptoms, minimize travel between your homes, opt for someone who is living on their own and consider staying together so you don’t begin spreading what you might not even know you have. And continue using contraception, particularly with less access to different forms of birth control and STI testing right now. A recent Harvard study has also suggested that people should wear masks and avoid kissing during sex, which could certainly add some kink to your summer nights. Before you decide to give in, however, weigh the risks and consider who you live with and the community around you: is it worth it? Your safest sexual partner – after yourself, of course – is someone already living with you. So if you do decide to grow your social circle at home, that can include sexual partners. Either way, take advantage of a time when you can get especially creative. Cyber sex will never be too 90s. SA

Travelling

Whether you’re taking vacation or just want to get away for a weekend, your options are limited. With non-essential travel outside and inside Canada heavily discouraged (many countries have border restrictions and airlines have suspended flights you may have booked months ago), consider local travel. 

With some provincial borders open, there are spots you might be able to road trip to, though it isn’t advised. Instead, opt for a camping trip. Some national parks are opening soon and private campgrounds are now okay to operate. Physical distancing rules apply here, with families and groups advised to keep to themselves and be careful to avoid injury and/or getting lost. Parks Canada also requests you “leave no trace” when leaving any outdoor space and take your garbage with you.

If you’re considering escaping to the cottage, the ban on short-term rentals is over, though travellers are advised to exercise caution regarding where they go and group size. If you’re staying in a hotel, pass on housecleaning to limit the bodies in your room and consider bringing your own bedding and towels.

If you’re driving, limit the people in your vehicle to those you’ve been quarantining with, and stick to drive-thrus. Avoid making numerous stops. Use gloves while at the gas station and use a debit or credit card over cash. If you use a public washroom, try not to touch the faucet or door handles without a glove. Either way, wash your hands after and be sure to have sanitizer on your person. 

If you do decide to leave the country, check the health risks you might be facing at your destination, along with its specific entry requirements. Keep in mind that you may have reduced access to health care there and that the duration of your trip may end up becoming longer. Upon your return, you’ll also have to self-isolate for two weeks. All air passengers – domestic or international – are now also required to wear a face-covering while travelling, and will be subjected to temperature checks. Of course, you won’t be able to board if you have any symptoms of COVID-19. If you feel sick during your flight, inform a flight attendant. As for taking a cruise, the answer was, is, and always will be: absolutely not. SA

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SAMUEL ENGELKING

Outdoor activities 

After months of taped off benches and locked parks, the city has finally reopened many outdoor spaces. Beaches, ravines and bike trails are now reopened, as are park amenities like baseball diamonds, picnic shelters, skate parks and city-run golf and disc golf courses. Public washrooms have reopened in some popular parks, like High Park, Trinity Bellwoods, Christie Pits and Coronation Park, but check the city’s official website for the full list. If parks are too crowded, the city also closes off sections of Lake Shore and Bayview to make more space for pedestrians, cyclists and runners on weekends and holidays. 

As of June 22, lifeguards will be on duty at six beaches: Woodbine, Sunnyside, Cherry Beach, Bluffer’s Park, Kew-Balmy and Marie Curtis Park Beach. You can’t go for a dip at public pools, wading pools or splash pads just yet, but they’re set to reopen during Stage 2 of the city’s reopening plan. Ferry service to Toronto Island is still restricted to island residents only. SE 

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SAMUEL ENGELKING

Eating out 

If you’re craving street meat or a soft-serve cone, the good news is that your local hotdog vendor, food truck and ice cream trucks are allowed to operate again. But if you’re longing for the dining-in experience, you’ll have to wait a bit longer. In the GTA, restaurants are still only open for take-out and delivery. The province hasn’t announced any tentative reopening dates yet, but the city is fast-tracking patio and sidewalk cafe applications. In the meantime, picnics are always an option. (Plus, a bunch of restaurants are putting together picnic baskets see story on page 12.) SE

Shopping and personal care services 

Across the city, many shops with outdoor entrances are now open with varying restrictions like limited capacity and mandatory face masks. If you’re planning a big day of shopping on a main street like Queen West, be prepared to wait in lines to get into popular stores. Some shops have arrows directing the flow of people, while others have sales associates at the entrance offering hand sanitizer squirts. Farmers’ markets are allowed to open, including the St. Lawrence Market. 

Although personal care services like hair salons, beauty salons and tattoo parlours have reopened in most of the province, they remain closed in Toronto as the city is still in stage one of the reopening plan. SE

@nowtoronto

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