holiday gatherings ontario

Ontario healthcare workers pleading with people to cancel holiday gatherings

The holidays are fast approaching and public officials have been clear with their advice for Christmas and New Year's gatherings in light of the current COVID-19 situation: avoid travelling and only celebrate with the members of your household. 

Still, a new Angus Reid poll released Monday revealed that 27 per cent of Ontario residents plan to visit friends or family members locally for Christmas, and 8 per cent say they'll be travelling to visit relatives in other communities.

This, coupled with rising ICU cases, is why the Ontario Hospital Association issued an urgent plea today asking residents to cancel any planned holiday gatherings and instead celebrate safely with the people they live with. 

"The number of people in intensive care in Ontario hospitals with COVID-19 is rising, with potentially devastating consequences for patients," wrote the OHA, which represents Ontario's hospitals and professional associations including doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists. 

"If hospitals, emergency departments and ICUs are full, it means that surgeries, procedures, diagnostic tests and routine care will have to be delayed, adding to a substantial backlog not just in hot spots, but throughout Ontario. This risk affects all patients, not only those with COVID-19 – the postponement of cardiac or cancer surgeries, for example, puts thousands more in harm's way."

On Tuesday, Ontario's Ministry of Health reported 1,676 new cases of COVID-19, with 794 patients in hospital, 219 in ICU and 132 on a ventilator — representing an incease of 69 new hospitalizations over a 24-hour period.

And on Monday, the province recorded a record-high increase of 1,925 new cases. 

On the same day, the city's medical officer of health called it "a very, very serious situation" and said "COVID-19 is spreading aggressively in Toronto."

As a result, Dr. Eileen de Villa urged all residents to avoid "risky in-home festivities" this holiday season, and the OHA is now doing the same. 

"We know that fatigue with public health restrictions has set in, and that it is particularly painful to cancel traditional family gatherings – but this sacrifice pales in comparison to the pain of losing a loved one or watching them suffer," reads the association's statement. 

"While seniors and other vulnerable populations are at greatest risk from COVID-19, we have also seen serious health consequences and deaths among younger people, and we appeal to them to follow public health guidelines and thank those that are doing the right thing."

The association also says it's the provincial government's responsibility to implement strong public health measures to keep people safe, but the onus is on the individual to strictly adhere to these measures. 

The statement includes a list of the top five things all Ontarians can do to protect themselves and others, and it includes the standard steps such as washing hands often, wearing a mask at all times while outside the home, staying away from crowded places, celebrating and gathering only with members of the same household and preparing for contact tracing by downloading the COVID-19 app

"In the spirit of love, family and generosity that characterizes the holiday season, we ask all Ontarians to celebrate safely and responsibly," said the association. 

"Celebrating at a distance is the best way to support healthcare professionals, and it is a small price to pay compared to the grief of those who could face far greater losses if we fail to do our part."

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