With omicron variant cases rising, safer holiday gathering plans are on everyone’s mind. How can we spend warm, nourishing time with our loved ones—and not pass COVID on as well?
As we head into the holiday season, here are a few tips on how to adjust our plans to stay safe.
Keep it smaller
Canada’s public health officials are asking us to keep our holiday celebrations smaller and more intimate this year.
The recommendations for the most people you should have at an indoor gathering are different in every region. And after two years of COVID waves, it’s not easy to decide we’re not going to see someone this year. But taking a moment to think about what the most sensible number of guests might be—not so small as to leave you missing loved ones, but not so large as to risk them—is definitely worthwhile.
Think about your guests’ real needs
As public health officials have been saying, there’s “no magic number of people that makes a gathering safe.” Instead, think about the real people you’re gathering with this holiday season—and plan around their real needs.
If your friends or loved ones are older, immunocompromised, pregnant, or higher-risk, it’s worth planning your gathering around their safety threshold, rather than yours. Even if there’s a level of safety you’re personally comfortable with—an indoor dinner instead of an outdoor meetup, or mixing vaccinated and unvaccinated guests—it’s just good hosting to talk with the most at-risk person on your list first, and find out what makes them comfortable.
The greatest gift we can give this year is the chance to be with loved ones without fear of COVID exposure—or arguments about it. With a little footwork, everyone will be safer—and happier.
Book your vaccines
Toronto’s shown a great commitment to getting our vaccines. But now that they’ve been approved for kids and higher-risk adults are getting booster shots, it’s important to keep on top of our shots.
The more people who are vaccinated, the less chance we have of getting sick—and making others sick.
Wear a good mask
While omicron may be daunting, the difference between this year’s holidays and last year is our tools. We have much more effective tools against COVID this time around—and one of them is a good-quality, good-fitting medical-grade mask.
High-quality masks have never been easier to get. They’re available from office supply stores, pharmacies, and even vending machines at Toronto Pearson Airport, Union Station, and major Toronto subway stations.
If you’re visiting Toronto for longer, you can plan ahead and have your mask supply waiting. Ontario mask manufacturers Canadian Shield offer express shipping on masks, face shields, respirators, and rapid tests. Order a few days before your travel date, and you can have a Health Canada-certified mask supply waiting for you when you arrive—enough for you and your guests.
Use rapid tests to make sure you’re safe
Rapid tests are a part of the COVID safety puzzle that’s never quite clicked in Ontario—but they can be vital in keeping your holiday gathering safe.
Rapid tests are available from some pharmacies and online suppliers: either over the counter or shipped to your door. They’re easy, convenient COVID tests you can do at home, giving you a result in 15 minutes. Get a negative, and you’re likely safe; get a positive, and it’s time to confirm that with a formal PCR test.
Having your guests each test themselves before your holiday gathering is a great way to make sure nobody’s carrying an asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic case of COVID. And it means you’ll be able to relax into spending time with loved ones, instead of worrying about the air you breathe.
Have a backup plan
Our situation’s changing fast, and it’s smart to have a backup plan, whether big or small.
On the simple end, a holiday backup plan can mean sending invites for a virtual Zoom holiday party in case gathering recommendations change—and your guest list ends up being too large.
If you have to travel across borders, knowing where to get a PCR test so you can make your flight home on time can save you trouble later. In the most serious scenario, it might be worthwhile to line up somewhere to stay in case borders close entirely.
Safer holiday gatherings are the holiday spirit
Either way, be prepared to be flexible as the situation develops: and get your friends and family to help out. Planning a group gathering that keeps everyone safe is much easier when we’re all on board—or when we divide tasks like testing and planning equally to make it easy on the host.
Even though COVID’s affecting our holiday plans, the holiday spirit’s unchanged: that we’ll always do better when we lean on each other, talk with each other, and work together.