covid ontario thanksgiving

Ontario relying on your best judgement to prevent spread of COVID-19 at Thanksgiving

Canadians are gearing up to celebrate what, for most, will be their first-ever Thanksgiving during a global pandemic.

We know, based on the recent advice of Ontario's top public health official, that it is paramount to cook one's turkey well or face the risk of salmonella poisioning.

We also know that cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus have been surging over the past month, reaching a new all-time high daily increase of 732 cases last week.

Social gathering limits are back down to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors, bars must now close by midnight and, as of Saturday, face masks are mandatory in public indoor spaces across the province, among other restrictions.

Restaurants remain open for indoor dining, however, with a capacity limit of 75 people per venue.

What does this all mean for a major holiday that's less than one week away? A holiday traditionally celebrated together, in large groups of extended relatives and friends? Can we get together with family members in restaurants, but not our own homes?

Questions and confusion are rampant, but Doug Ford had the following to say on Monday when asked about how we should all handle Thanksgiving: "Use your best judgement."

"I've gotten a lot of calls — 'should I go see my 80-year-old mother for Thanksgiving?' — you have to use your judgement. You have to use common sense," said Ford during his daily pandemic press conference.

"Do we want you to tighten your circle? 100 per cent, we want you to tighten it. Do we want you to stick in the same group you're always around, be it family members? Absolutely, and I think people know that," he said.

"I don't think you know you could be any clearer."

Some might argue that additional restrictions would make things a bit clearer, such as Toronto's medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, who on Friday (unsuccesfully) requested that the province eliminate indoor dining at all Toronto restaurants for a four-week period.

Dr. de Villa made no bones about what she wants from people in Toronto, where nearly half of today's new COVID-19 infections came from.

"Please, do not hold a big Thanksgiving dinner," she said during the City of Toronto's COVID-19 update on Monday.

"COVID-19 is spreading in a serious way. The choices we make will determine whether the spread of COVID-19 is going to get worse or going to get better. On that basis I'm very seriously asking again that everyone rethink their Thanksgiving plans."

Not content to rely on the "best judgement" of Toronto residents,  de Villa went on to ask that we all limit Thanksgiving dinner only to those we live with.

"If you live alone, the safest option is to join with others virtually," offered de Villa when speaking about the upcoming long weekend.

"I would far rather we change one Thanksgiving for safety's sake than look back at Thanksgiving 2020 with enormous regret."

While Ford's language was less direct, Ontario Minister of Health Christine Elliott suggested that similar recommendations are in effect for the entire province.

"We are asking people just to use their judgement, the rules are out there," she said to reporters on Monday, urging everyone to look at their own family situation and consider the health and safety of elderly or vulnerable relatives.

"Don't get involved in large groups — 20, 30-person family dinners are not what we should be doing right now," she said. "We need to just really stick to our close household unit so that we can flatten the curve and get out of this second wave."

Lead photo by

Joakim Jardenberg

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