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As we spend another holiday season living with the pandemic, and with the Omicron variant spreading quickly, I know many Albertans are wondering how they can celebrate with their loved ones in the safest way possible.
While there are still important restrictions in place, thanks to the power of vaccine and the 85% of Albertans who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, this year, we have a few more options than last year.
It is still important to make all our decisions about holiday gatherings with our communities and our health care system in mind. The health of our loved ones and our neighbours is in our hands.
Here are some important tips to help keep your holiday celebrations safe:
- It is absolutely critical that if you feel even a little unwell, you stay home and get tested
- Monitor yourself and your children for symptoms. No matter how mild symptoms may be, seek COVID-19 testing as soon as possible.
- If you’re hosting an event, you need to cancel it and isolate away from others.
- Limit the number of in-person contacts you have
- While you can gather in groups up to 10 adults, it’s a good idea to keep gatherings as small as possible and limit the number of get-togethers you host and attend.
- Consider going to one family dinner instead of 2 parties.
- Consider limiting your social contact over the holidays by at least 50%.
- In alignment with the current work from home order in effect, workplaces are strongly encouraged to cancel any holiday gatherings, even if held in a Restrictions Exemption Program establishment.
- Talk to guests about options for gathering to ensure everyone is comfortable
- Encourage guests to receive all vaccine doses available to them and request they wear masks when not eating or drinking. Masks should be well-fitting and high-quality to have the greatest benefit.
- Whenever possible, have a virtual option to keep in-person attendance low.
- Consider outdoor gathering options.
- Increase ventilation indoors whenever possible.
- As an additional tool, consider using a rapid test for screening regularly in the days before you head out to a gathering
- If you’ve picked up a free rapid testing kit and have no symptoms, you can test yourself daily for a few days before the event as an additional prevention measure to help identify infections early.
- This should only be considered in addition to all other health precautions, not as a replacement for public health measures. A single negative test does not guarantee that a person is COVID-free.
- If you have symptoms you must complete the online assessment and get tested at an Alberta Health Services Assessment Centre.
By following these precautions, you can help to lower the chance that COVID-19 shows up in your holiday plans.
Even without the complexity COVID brings to the holidays, this can be a stressful time of year. It’s important to take care of your mental health in the ways that are most helpful to you. Whether that’s reaching out to a supportive friend that you can talk to, fresh air and exercise or accessing the many Alberta Health Services resources and services. You are not alone and help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.
Be safe, be kind, and follow public health guidance, so we can all minimize the spread of COVID-19 while we celebrate the holidays and as we head into 2022.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw
Dr. Deena Hinshaw was Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health from January 28, 2019 to November 14, 2022.