‘Be creative this season:’ Safe holiday tips from Ottawa Public Health

OTTAWA — With the holiday season underway, Ottawa Public Health says we will still celebrate the holidays, “it’ll just be different than normal.”

In a thread on Twitter called “Sex, Drugs and Santa Claus,” Ottawa Public Health talks about how we will spend the holidays this year and reminds people only celebrate with members of their household only.

“We’ll still celebrate the holidays …no one is taking that away from us. It’ll just be different than normal.”

The first night of Hanukkah is Dec. 10, while Christmas Day is just three weeks away. 

“This holiday season we’re strongly advising that you only gather in person with members of your household. If you live alone, one-two close supports are ok. We know some of you may choose to gather with family from outside your household and some of you may travel. Don’t do that,” said the health unit on Twitter.

“But if you do, we can’t stress enough how vital it is that you be as safe as possible. Wear masks at all times (preferably with three layers). Remain outdoors when possible.”

Appearing on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron on Thursday, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches was asked about her feelings heading into the holiday season.

“I think it is hard for people when we can’t get together with people we love and are special. I know this season is sometimes the most important for people, so I appreciate it is a challenge. Of course, our recommendations are still to limit travel and there’s a provincial law which limits gatherings of more than 10 people indoors,” said Dr. Etches.

“We’re wanting to focus on what people can do, how can you be creative this season. We are suggesting people stay to their household, but if you want to gather with another household to do that outside.”

Dr. Etches says if you gather with another household, create new traditions like going for walks, but also wear a mask at all times.

The health unit offers tips for celebrating the holiday season while being COVID Wise.

  • Surprise your loved ones by sending a gift such as home-baked cookies, a cozy knitted scarf, a lovely craft or holiday-themed masks. 
  • Write a few heart-felt words in a card and mail it to your family/friends. 
  • Make a video with you and/or a member of your household playing guitar, piano, drums, etc. and/or singing.  
  • Open gifts during a video call with family or friends. 
  • Set up a time to share a meal virtually and show-off your perfect festive outfit, food creations, share jokes and stories and give good cheer.   
  • If it’s in your tradition to sing songs or play games with your loved ones, sing or play together virtually. 
  • Set up a virtual Zoom Karaoke night or virtual dance party with your friends and sing and/or dance “together” to bring in the new year. 
  • Go on a virtual group walk after dinner or brunch and share the beautiful Christmas lights and other bright and fun sights in your neighborhood.    
  • Organize a car train (everyone in their own cars) to go see the Christmas lights. 

Ottawa Public Health says this holiday season, we need to be as safe as possible to stop the spread of COVID-19 and avoid large gatherings.

“We know some will say ‘It’s not illegal because the current rules say indoor gatherings of 10 are allowed!’ Well, to be fair, the speed limit on the 417 is 100 kilometres an hour, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe (or wise) to drive that fast in a blizzard. The actions we take must always be based on the current circumstances,” the health unit wrote on Twitter.

“Right now, it’s not safe to gather with people who live outside of your household. But the holidays aren’t cancelled, far from it!”

If you do attend a gathering this holiday season, Ottawa Public Health recommends wearing a mask at all times, stay two metres apart from those outside your household and make your attendance at the gathering as short as possible.

“December may be the hardest challenge we’ve faced yet. It’s all hands on deck. We all wanted normal holidays with gifts & gatherings,” Public Health said.

“Well, our gifts to each other will be our actions. Because lockdowns are worse than coal.”

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