Ontario doctors are urging people to celebrate this holiday virtually. (ArtistGNDphotography/iStock)

Doctors urge people to stay safe amid surging COVID-19 infections

During this Christmas season, doctors in the province of Ontario say the best gift one can give is the gift of health. They ask people to follow public health guidelines “so we can spread cheer not COVID-19.” The government of Ontario has just announced lock down restrictions to take effect on December 26, 2020 because of increasing cases of coronavirus infection. The lockdown will shutter all non-essential businesses and ban indoor gatherings. It will also extend the winter school break.

There has been criticism that the number of new infections are bad enough that the restrictions should take effect immediately. 

‘A perilous time,’ says chief public health officer

On this December 22, 2020, Ontario has reported another 2,202 cases of COVID-19 and that was the eighth consecutive day that the new cases numbered over 2,000. There are 285 people in intensive care in the province, one more than the highest number at any point in this pandemic. Twenty-one more people have died. New projections suggest 300 more intensive care beds will get filled in the next ten days and that will be double what it takes to have surgeries cancelled.  The worst-case projection suggest intensive care units could need 1,500 beds by mid-January.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Teresa Tam says the country has more than 77,000 active cases of COVID-19. Almost 3,200 people were sent to hospital with the infection on an average day this past week. Tam is predicting an “even stronger resurgence” of this pandemic and is calling this “a perilous time.”

People are asked to support local businesses by shopping online and using curbside pickup. (iStock)

10 ways to stay safe recommended

In the face of this, doctors represented by the Ontario Medical Association are asking the public to follow 10 steps to try to keep people safe. The first ask is that people only celebrate the holiday with members of their own household, unless they live alone, in which case, they may consider joining one other household. They invite people to explore virtual options for celebration with friends and family members outside their own household.

The doctors ask people to support local businesses by shopping online using curbside pickup and by ordering takeout food from restaurants.

People are asked to stay home and only travel for essential reasons so as not to spread the virus.

The fifth recommendation is to follow public health advice even though it is not easy to do during the holiday season. 

Doctors urge people to get tested if they have any symptoms of COVID-19. (iStock)

Getting tested helps the community, say doctors

Next, people are asked to get tested if they suspect they have COVID-19 and are told getting tested and confirming their status is the best gift they can give their community. If they do test positive, they are asked to trace their contacts so they know they may have been exposed and should get tested.

People are encouraged to connect virtually with others who may be lonely and to take care of their own mental health. Doctors ask that people pay attention to how they are feeling and try to talk about their emotions. And in turn, they can reach out to loved ones who may be struggling as well.

And finally the doctors urge people to be honest with friends and family about their health and safety concerns, particularly if they are feeling pressure to participate in an activity or gathering that doesn’t make them feel safe. “The best gift you can give is to be honest about your intentions to protect your health and the health of those around you and to listen to others when they communicate their intentions to you,” reads a news release from the Ontario Medical Association while inviting people to read more information about how to stay safe during this holiday season. 

The association represents more than 43,000 doctors, medical students and retired doctors.

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