Health unit advising people ‘stay safe and stay home’ over the holidays

By Sue Tiffin

“Home for the holidays” is a saying with extra meaning in 2020, according to the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District acting medical officer of health, Dr. Ian Gemmill.

“With COVID-19 cases circulating and on the rise across much of Ontario, the need to stay safe and stay home has never been so important this holiday season,” said Gemmill.

The health unit is encouraging all residents to avoid holiday gatherings; celebrate the holidays in-person only with those in your immediate household or family; celebrate virtually or connect by phone with family and friends, including those whom you would otherwise not see; avoid non-essential travel, especially to parts of Ontario with high rates of COVID-19 transmission, and in all instances, stay home if you are sick, staying home and separate until recovery or receiving medical clearance.

“We understand that limiting contacts and holiday festivities this December is difficult to hear at a time usually reserved for seasonal traditions, large family get-togethers and other activities,” said Gemmill. “But like so much in 2020, the pandemic has forced all of us to change how we live… and unfortunately, it also means adjusting plans this holiday season to reduce the risk of COVID-19. While we realize the hardships that people have faced and the ongoing sacrifices that they are making, the health unit also asks everyone to keep up the good work by continuing to follow these important COVID-19 prevention measures. They can reduce the spread and help our health care services to respond better to the increasing cases.”

Gemmill noted the province’s self-assessment website, at to help with guidance and recommendations.

“Ontario is firmly in the grips of the second wave of COVID-19,” said Gemmill. “We are seeing it reflected in rising COVID-19 cases locally, as well as worrying province-wide increases in hospital admissions and intensive care unit occupancy due to the virus. Regardless of where we live, be it a grey, red, orange, yellow or green COVID-19 zone, the fact is that our collective actions will make a huge difference in how bad COVID-19 gets this winter. It should be an extra motivator to take every recommended preventive measure, especially when we know the toll COVID-19 is already taking on our hospitals and health care system. With new COVID-19 vaccines on the way, we need to continue our efforts to contain the spread of the virus.”

Gemmill said continuing with COVID-19 prevention measures is critical to reduce the spread of the virus and lessen the load on our health care system.

“No matter who we are, or where we live, we need to stay home if ill; wear a mask when inside public places; practise physical distancing by remaining two metres (six feet) apart from others; wash hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and water; avoid non-essential travel, especially to high risk areas; celebrate the holidays safely, including avoiding large gatherings and only celebrating in-person with those in our immediate household.”

Further information and recommendations about celebrating the holidays during the novel coronavirus pandemic is available at

“The holidays can still be merry and bright, and let’s also look forward to a happier, healthier New Year, especially with new COVID-19 vaccines on the way,” said Gemmill.