With Thanksgiving a few days away, public health officials are warning Canadians to keep gatherings small to help curb the spread of COVID-19 — this is particularly important for COVID hot spots in Ontario and Quebec.
“We’ve got some serious planning to do. Not the carefree planning we had last Thanksgiving but rather some ingenious Canadian COVID-19 ‘holiday-hacks’ that will ensure there are no viruses invited or passed around at our gatherings,” Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer said in a statement released over the weekend.
In Ontario, according to new measures implemented last Friday, residents should plan private gatherings limited to the people in their household. Earlier rules also indicate that gatherings can include no more than 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors, though health officials are asking residents to keep gatherings as small as possible.
Ontario residents are also being asked to put a pause on social bubbles and limit contact to only those within the same household, and maintain two metres of distance from everyone else (although individuals who live alone can create a social circle with another household).
For those who’d prefer to eat out this long weekend — restaurants, bars, and nightclubs must limit capacity to 100 in Ottawa and Peel Region, and 75 in Toronto, with a maximum of six people per table. Similarly, event spaces and banquet halls must have no more than 50 people in the facility at a time, and there is a limit of six people per table.
Social media couldn’t help but point out that, although gatherings with people outside one’s immediate household are being discouraged, it would be technically allowable under Ontario’s new measures if you went to a restaurant and got a table for six — and were willing to share a space with up to 94 other people (in Ottawa and Peel), or up to 69 other people in Toronto.
Still, some are making the difficult decision to limit family gatherings.
Same with us. We all need to sacrifice one family holiday meal to hopefully have many more, with no empty chairs at the table!
— Sarah McCormack (@sarahmc_photo) October 6, 2020
For those who want to avoid small, indoor gatherings this long weekend, Dr. Tam recommends that celebrations be set-up for virtual or safe distancing connections.
Or you can opt for a “well-spaced” outdoor gathering. According to Dr. Tam, this might involve setting up in an open space where each contact bubble is no closer than the length of a picnic table apart.
“Think about ways you can preserve and protect your close contacts bubble while connecting at a safe distance from others. For example, layer on clothes for warmth and personal precautions against COVID-19 to enjoy a safe gathering in Canada’s wide-open spaces,” Dr. Tam said. “Remember, too close is too close, even if you are outdoors. Don’t share food or objects, “Bring-Your-Own” is safer. Do share friendships, experiences and the great Canadian outdoors — together apart!”
On Monday, Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, advised Toronto residents not to hold a big Thanksgiving dinner. This recommendation comes after it was reported that Toronto experienced higher daily case counts than were experienced during the first wave of the pandemic (e.g., 381 cases on Sept. 28 and 321 cases on Sept. 29).
“Please limit your Thanksgiving dinner to the people you live with,” de Villa said to reporters. “I would far rather that we change Thanksgiving one time for safety sake than look back at Thanksgiving 2020 with enormous regret.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford was also asked about Thanksgiving during his daily press briefing on Monday; he simply reminded Canadians to use their “best judgement” when celebrating this long weekend.
“Do we want you to tighten your circle? One hundred per cent, we want you to tighten it. Do we want you to stick in the same group you’re always around, be with family members? Absolutely,” Ford said.
As of Oct. 5, Ontario reported an additional 548 cases of COVID-19 and an increase of seven deaths. Out of the new confirmed cases, Toronto recorded 201 cases, Peel recorded 90 cases, and Ottawa recorded 62 cases.