Ontario’s doctors say it’s more important than ever to limit physical interactions and follow public health guidelines this Valentine’s and Family Day weekend so that we curb the pandemic rather than extend it.
Doctors who have been treating patients on the front lines for almost a year say there are many ways to celebrate this holiday weekend safely: in person with household members or phone calls or virtual meals with other friends and relatives.
But now is not the time to gather with others or let down our guard, no matter how difficult it is to be separated from our chosen family, loved ones and friends. Only by continuing to adhere to public health guidelines in different regions of the province and continuing to practice physical distancing and good hygiene will we stop the spread of COVID-19 and its new variants while waiting for widespread vaccinations.
“We never stopped holding our families tightly in our hearts, but COVID-19 has challenged us all to find meaningful ways to connect from a distance,” said Dr. Samantha Hill, president of the Ontario Medical Association. “Vaccines give us all hope that someday soon we can hold our families tightly in our arms as well. That day isn’t today though. So, for the sake of all of our families, this Family Day cherish, support and connect with your family while adhering to public health guidelines.”
The lockdown has been especially hard on seniors and others who live alone and on children who have been unable to play and socialize with others. COVID-19 restrictions have worsened mental health and addictions issues for many people, and the health-care system needs to prepare to care for them now and for years after this pandemic is over.
The OMA has questioned whether there is enough evidence to support the government’s plan to gradually lift the province-wide lockdown and return to the colour-coded framework. It recommended instead waiting for a few weeks after schools reopen to assess how that will affect transmission of the virus, how quickly the new variants spread in the community and how soon Ontario will get a steady supply of vaccines.
Ontario’s doctors say the most important things everyone can do to prevent the spread of the virus are:
- Wash your hands often
- Wear a mask or face covering at all times unless you are at home with housemates or outdoors at a guaranteed two metres’ distance from others
- Prepare for contact tracing if you get COVID-19 – download the COVID Alert app and/or keep track of where you go and when
“We urge everyone to pay special attention to their mental health and to that of those around us,” said OMA CEO Allan O’Dette. “Reach out to a friend or family member.”