Canadian Thanksgiving 2021: How to stay COVID-19 safe

This story was updated with the latest information on gathering restrictions by province on Friday, Oct. 8.

With the Thanksgiving weekend quickly approaching, many Canadians are preparing to host or attend gatherings with their friends and families.

But as the threat of the Delta variant looms, experts say hosts should proceed with caution and avoid having large, indoor gatherings with unvaccinated guests.

Dr. Andrew Morris, who is an infectious diseases specialist at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, says Canadians should consider moving their Thanksgiving dinner outdoors if possible.

“If you can get away with it because the weather’s good enough, have an outdoor gathering. Or make your gathering as similar to outdoors as possible, meaning a lot of fresh air coming in and out of the home,” he told on Monday.

This includes opening windows and doors to ensure good ventilation, Morris says. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control also recommends opening windows as well as using fans to circulate fresh air during indoor gatherings.

Most provinces and territories continue to have public health restrictions that limit indoor gatherings to 10 to 25 people. In most cases, Morris recommends adhering to these gathering limits set by public health officials.

In Saskatchewan there are currently no limits on private indoor or outdoor gatherings despite COVID-19 cases hitting record highs. Vaccination rates in the province are also the lowest in Canada.

University of Saskatchewan epidemiologist Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine wants to see the province introduce strict limits on private gatherings.

“Some places … have a very high community prevalence (of COVID-19) and I think in those places, I would say we shouldn’t be having any gatherings with the people we don’t live with,” said Muhajarine in a phone interview with on Monday.

Apart from Alberta, no provinces have any restrictions against having indoor gatherings with unvaccinated guests. Still, Morris and Muhajarine agree that Canadians hosting Thanksgiving gatherings should make sure that attendees are fully vaccinated.

“The safest thing you can do is ensure that everyone that comes into your home is vaccinated. and that will get rid of a lot of risk,” Morris said.

Having a smaller gathering also makes it easier to ensure that all your guests are vaccinated, Muhajarine says.

“If you’re inviting dozens of people, it’s unlikely that you will be checking people’s vaccination status at the door. And so, I think private gathering limits are really an important component,” he said.

Morris says the fact that children under 12 can’t get vaccinated underscores the need to have gatherings with COVID-19 safety measures.

“If you’ve got a family with a bunch of young kids … you want to try as much as possible to do all the things, such as trying to do it outdoors and ensuring that anyone who attends is vaccinated,” he said.

Morris also predicts COVID-19 cases will rise across the country following the Thanksgiving weekend.

“I think that clearly, the biggest risk that we’ve seen throughout the pandemic is holidays. And they don’t have to be statutory holidays. We’ve seen this with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day,” he said.


While some provinces and territories have lifted their limits on private gatherings, others continue to maintain or have re-implemented restrictions in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases.

In addition to Saskatchewan, Yukon has no restrictions on private social gatherings taking place indoors or outdoors.

Alberta: The province allows for private indoor gatherings with up to 10 people from two households if they’ve been vaccinated or aren’t eligible for the vaccine. Unvaccinated Albertans eligible for the vaccine are not permitted to attend indoor gatherings. The limit on outdoor gatherings has also been reduced from 200 down to 20 people. Alberta has been a COVID-19 hotspot in this fourth wave, struggling to deal with record-breaking hospitalizations.

British Columbia: Some regions currently have stricter rules on gatherings than others. In Fraser East, which includes Abbotsford, Agassiz, Chilliwack, Harrison Hot Springs, Hope and Mission, those who aren’t fully vaccinated are limited to five visitors or one other household if they’re gathering inside. Outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 visitors. No limits to personal gatherings are in place for those who are fully vaccinated. In the Interior and Northern health regions, indoor gatherings can’t include more than five guests or one other household, regardless of vaccination status. There are no restrictions on personal gatherings across the rest of the province.

Manitoba: The province has restricted indoor private gatherings to two households. For outdoor private gatherings, households are limited to 10 guests. These restrictions don’t affect groups of fully vaccinated Manitobans.

New Brunswick: Starting at 6 p.m. local time Friday until Tuesday, both indoor and outdoor gatherings are limited to single households.

Newfoundland and Labrador: Private gatherings are only permitted within a social bubble of 20 people. In Boyd’s Cove, New World Island and the North/South Twillingate Islands, the maximum bubble size is 10 people.

Nova Scotia: Up to 25 are permitted to gather indoors and 50 outdoors without masks or physical distancing.

Northwest Territories: Up to 200 people can gather indoors and outdoors. Gathering restrictions have been imposed on Yellowknife, N’Dilo and Dettah, with no household visitors permitted with few exceptions. Behchoko and Whati are under a containment order, also with no household visitors permitted apart from limited exceptions.

Nunavut: The territory has restricted household gatherings to 15 people, plus household members, while there are no restrictions on outdoor gatherings. In Coral Harbour, household gatherings are restricted to five people, plus household members, while outdoor gatherings are limited to five people. In Kinngait, outdoor gatherings are limited to 100 people.

Ontario: Indoor gatherings are capped at 25. For outdoor gatherings, the limit is 100.

Quebec: A maximum of 10 people or occupants from three households are allowed to gather indoors at a private residence. For outdoor gatherings, the limit is 20 people or three households. Quebec also continues to “highly recommend” masking and physical distancing at gatherings.

Prince Edward Island: The limit is 20 people for both indoor and outdoor gatherings.

With files from reporter Alyse Kotyk


This story has been updated to include restrictions on personal gatherings in the Fraser East, Interior and Northern health regions of British Columbia, as well as to update the restrictions in the Northwest Territories.

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