KAWARTHA LAKES-The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPRDHU) is reminding residents to continue following COVID-19 prevention measures during holiday gatherings.
The health unit says COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Ontario, driven by the more highly infectious Omicron sub-variant. Locally, the Health Unit’s COVID-19 surveillance team has identified a significant rise in viral signal from the municipal wastewater monitoring sites in Cobourg and Lindsay, as well as an increasing number of lab-confirmed cases and new outbreaks in highest risk settings.
“COVID-19 doesn’t take a holiday, so neither should we in trying to stop transmission at a time when we are in the midst of a sixth wave of the virus,” says Dr. Natalie Bocking, Medical Officer of Health, with the HKPR District Health Unit. “As many of us gather with family and friends this weekend to mark spring festivities, like Easter, Passover and Ramadan, let’s be sure to celebrate safely and, most importantly, stay home if you’re sick.”
Officials are issuing a strong recommendation to wear a proper-fitting, three-layer mask if gathering with others indoors.
Dr. Bocking also encourages everyone who is sick, even with mild symptoms, to stay home and not visit with others. If someone is unsure what to do, use Ontario’s online Self Assessment tool for more direction. If someone uses a Rapid Antigen Test and it shows a positive result, they should assume they have COVID-19 and isolate as required. Full information on when and how long to isolate is available on the Ontario government website.
Before visiting anyone, the Health Unit encourages people to ensure they have received a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine, as it can provide better protection against the virus and greatly reduce the risk of hospitalization.
Dr. Bocking asks people to keep the ‘three C’s’ in mind – closed spaces, crowded places and close faces.
“Avoiding the three C’s this holiday weekend makes extra sense, when COVID-19 cases are surging,” Dr. Bocking notes. “For instance, indoor spaces that aren’t well ventilated can increase the risk of COVID-19 spreading, so open a window if indoors or take the celebration outdoors if the weather permits. Reduce the risk further by sticking with smaller gatherings, not large ones. In addition, wear a tight fitting mask if visiting indoors, especially if someone in attendance is at higher risk of severe COVID-19 due to age or medical reasons.”
If visiting others, the Health Unit encourages the following:
- Stay home if sick, even if mild symptoms.
- Make sure you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, including having a booster dose.
- A strong recommendation to wear masks if visiting inside with others. Masks are an easy, effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
- If hosting a get-together, let guests know in advance what your expectations are around COVID-19 prevention measures (like mask use).
- Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly and often and sneeze and cough into your sleeve.
- Open a window or door to increase ventilation if gathering indoors. If the weather permits, take the celebration outside.
Dr. Bocking says pandemic fatigue is real, and that many people’s mental health has suffered due to isolation and COVID-19 restrictions. “Visiting others can be a remedy to give us a boost and help us reconnect with loved ones, especially at these special times of year,” she notes. “Let’s just be sure to celebrate safely!”