Toronto’s top doctor is urging residents to “limit Thanksgiving dinner to the people you live with” amid a surge in COVID-19 infections in the city.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa made the comment during a briefing at city hall on Monday afternoon.
She conceded that “keeping apart on a holiday isn’t what anyone wants to do” but said that doing so this year could help limit the current resurgence of COVID-19, which has forced Toronto Public Health to take the extraordinary step of abandoning their efforts to contact trace for each new case so that they can instead focus their efforts on institutional outbreaks.
“Please do not hold a big Thanksgiving dinner. Please limit you thanksgiving dinner to the people you live with,” de Villa said on Monday. “I would far rather that we change Thanksgiving one time for safety sake then look back at Thanksgiving 2020 with enormous regret.”
Toronto has seen its seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases rise from 41 at the beginning of September to 236.
The increase has outpaced the growth in COVID-19 infection in others part of Ontario and has led de Villa to call for additional restrictions that would apply solely to Toronto, including the immediate suspension on indoor dining at bars and restaurants.
On Monday, she said that her best advice right now is that people should “think primarily in terms of restricting contact as much as possible” and that means that anyone planning to have friends or family over for Thanksgiving should “rethink” those plans.
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“I am hearing from more and more people who are deciding to plan Thanksgiving around the risk of COVID-19,” she said, noting that virtual celebrations could be an option. “I would not wish on anyone the fear of receiving a COVID-19 diagnosis, I would not wish on anyone the worry of waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test.”
Premier Doug Ford was asked about people holding Thanksgiving dinners at a press conference earlier on Monday but did not go as far as de Villa, saying that Ontarians should just use “common sense” and “that it really comes down to your family members.”
Health Minister Christine Elliott also weighed in, saying that “twenty, thirty-person family dinners are not what we should be doing right now.”
She also said that Ontarians probably shouldn’t be getting together with any friends or family members who are over the age of 70 or have pre-existing conditions in order to protect their safety.
“We need to stick to our close household unit so that we can flatten the curve and get out of this second wave,” she said.
In a subsequent briefing on Monday, Ontario’s Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said that she is asking people “to limit their celebrations to those they live with and consider hosting a virtual gathering with anyone outside their household.
In the case of people who live alone, Yaffe said that it would be OK for those people to have “exclusive close contact” with one other household.
“How this pandemic will continue to unfold is in all of our hands and it is up to all of us to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and keep each other healthy and safe,” she said.