Yes, the COVID-19 rules keep changing. Here's a primer on what you can and can't do in Hamilton

Feeling confused about where the rules stand when it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19? Here's what the city and province say about what you can and can't do.

"We're all trying to do our best as we go through this and make good recommendations."

A bus drives on a road.
Hamilton's medical officer of health double-downed on the Ontario premier's message to only keep close contact with your household on Friday. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Following the provincial government's roll out of new restrictions on Friday, and as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Hamilton and surrounding areas, people have been left with questions about the rules in place and how far they extend.

Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, the city's medical officer of health, said she knows people might feel a lost amidst the changes. 

"I think people may understandably be a little confused with the changes that have gone this week," she said. 

"There's been a lot that's happened. A lot of changes. And I think that's part of the thing with COVID, we're all trying to do our best as we go through this and make good recommendations."

Here's an update on what the provincial and municipal governments are saying. 

Who can I have close contact with?

On Friday, the provincial government said that they were putting social circles — the exclusive group of 10 people that you wouldn't have to maintain distance from — on pause. 

People are advised to only come into close contact with those in their household. For everyone else, it's six feet apart. 

Dr. Richardson said she was recommending the same thing to limit the spread of the virus. But if you're a household of one, she recommended pairing up with another person who also lives alone. 

So can I hug my friends? 

Dropping the social circle guideline means that unless you live with someone, you shouldn't come within six feet of them.

In a media briefing on Monday, Premier Doug Ford said the overall message was to "tighten it up" when it comes to the people you see for social reasons.

Can I go out to a restaurant?

You can still dine-out at a restaurant, whether it be on a patio or indoors. 

Friends who don't live in the same household can eat out at a restaurant together, according to Jacqueline Durlov, a communications officer with the city. 

She said public health management measures with the province's re-opening plans still remain in place, and everyone should be following these measures. 

Hamilton city council's planning committee will discuss on Tuesday extending its outdoor dining districts program until Halloween of 2021. 

Can I still visit family at Thanksgiving?

When it comes to the upcoming holiday, Dr. Richardson recommended looking at alternatives to a big gathering, like moving celebrations online or dropping something off for someone you care about. 

Gathering limits are set at 10 people indoors and 25 people for outside events. But during these gatherings, physical distance has to be maintained from anyone you don't live with.

How about visiting other places in Ontario?

At this time, there is no ban against inter-provincial travel, said Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, in Monday's media briefing. 

"We have asked people to...decrease travel," he said, then added it doesn't mean people should be travelling. 

"Don't go out of your house if you don't need to go out. Don't go moving around even in other parts of the province." 

If you need to go to hot spot places like Toronto, Peel or Ottawa, Dr. Williams says to maintain six feet distance from others, wear a mask, and not go if you're sick. 

The recommendation is the same if you're travelling from Niagara up to Waterloo, he said. 

So while the province hasn't established an official ban, "officially, you have to be very judicious about your choice of when to travel and where to travel," he said.

Where do I have to wear a mask? 

Whenever you're somewhere in Hamilton that's indoors and in public, you'll have to wear a mask or face covering. 

The rules also apply to the common areas of condos and apartment buildings, including elevators and laundry rooms. 

The mask should cover your nose, mouth and chin, the city said. It shouldn't gape. 

Face shields on their own don't comply with the city's bylaw. If you decide to wear one, the city says to wear it at the same time as a mask.

What happened to CERB?

Canadians who are out of work will transition from the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) to employment insurance (EI.) You can find some questions and answers about the process here.

How do I get tested for COVID-19? 

As of Sunday, walk-in testing has been discontinued. Testing for COVID-19 is now done by appointment only. 

You can book a time at an assessment centre either online or over the phone. 

Booking online

  • Book an appointment on www.HamiltonCovidTest.ca and follow the prompts.
  • New appointments will come online as they become available. You can check the website a few hours later for any additional slots. 
  • If you can, book online. The city said that appointments available by phone are minimal and reserved for people with accessibility needs or without Internet access. 

Booking over the phone

  • Call the Hamilton Public Health Services COVID hotline 905-974-9848. 
  • The phone line is open 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. 
  • Voice messages can be left during these hours and will be returned. You can't leave a message outside of this time. 
  • There is currently a high volume of calls, so the city is asking people to be patient.
  • You can also call the hotline for any questions on ability issues and transportation. 

Here's a look at today's numbers. 


There are 113 people in Hamilton known to have COVID-19 right now, and 11 people have tested positive since Sunday. There have been 1,210 cases overall, and 1,050 people have recovered and 47 have died. 

The city's 47th death, according to the city's public health, was a man in his 60s from the community. He passed away in hospital on October 4. 

There are outbreaks at St. Peter's at Chedoke (one staff member), Rygiel Supports for Community Living (one staff member) and Koi restaurant (two staff members).


Nine people have confirmed COVID-19 in Brant/Brantford, and none are in hospital. One person has tested positive in the last 24 hours.

Overall, 196 people have had the virus, and 182 people have recovered. Five have died. 


Three people have COVID-19 right now. There have been 493 people there with the virus since the start of the pandemic, and 453 have recovered. Thirty-two people have died from the virus, the health unit says, and five have had the virus but died from other complications.


Eighteen more Halton residents have COVID-19 since Sunday. Right now, 165 people are known to have COVID-19, and 1,154 have recovered. Twenty-five people have died.

Seven more Burlington residents tested positive on Monday, and 56 have confirmed COVID-19 right now. Seven people have died in Burlington since the start of the pandemic, and 232 have recovered.


There are 125 people confirmed to have COVID-19 right now in Niagara. The region has 11 new cases, and had 16 new cases on Sunday. Overall, Niagara has had 1,130 cases. Of those, 940 have recovered and 65 have died.

Lundy Manor in Niagara Falls has another outbreak of COVID-19. Eighteen residents already died at the home earlier in the pandemic, and some families are suing the owners for $20 million

There are outbreaks at Shalom Gardens in Grimsby, the Meadows of Dorchester in Niagara Falls, Millennium Trail Manor in Niagara Falls and Pioneer Elder Care in St. Catharines.

Six Nations

There are two probable and three confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Six Nations of the Grand River, including one new confirmed case Sunday. 

Ohsweken Public Health lists a case as probable when a person is at high risk of exposure, such as exhibiting symptoms or being in close contact with a positive case, but declines testing to confirm. Twenty-two people have had COVID-19 since March.

"Remaining vigilant with the core health principles and not letting our guard down will ensure we as a community continue to protect our people," said Elected Chief Mark Hill.

With files from Samantha Craggs, Christine Rankin