Use caution if gathering for Thanksgiving next week, Dr. Wang advises

With Thanksgiving a week away, the region’s top doctor is reminding residents the pandemic isn’t over yet.

“Delta is formidable and it will spread easily when given the opportunity,” medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said during Friday’s public health briefing.

Dr. Wang said people need to follow public health restrictions and use “layers of protection” this upcoming holiday.

She is urging people to maintain physical distancing, stay home if showing symptoms of the virus, keeping gatherings small, and if possible, celebrating outdoors.

Currently, Ontario is in stage three of its reopening plan, which allows gatherings of 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.

“Without these precautions, we risk a very difficult fall and winter,” Dr. Wang said.

The safest way to celebrate is with people who are fully vaccinated, health officials said.

A small gathering with those who are all vaccinated is “a lot safer” than gathering with a large group whose vaccination status is unknown, Dr. Wang explained.

“The more that we add those layers, the more it protects us and our loved ones," she said.

A local epidemiologist said if protocols aren’t practiced this weekend it could lead to a spike in case counts.

“It will be a repeat of last year. We saw a lot of outbreaks happening after Thanksgiving after people gathered. So we’ll probably have the same scenario and have multiple outbreaks,” said Zahid Butt, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Waterloo. “The issue here is the Delta variant is … more transmissible than the previous versions of the virus, so you would actually have spread it more in the community.”

He said it’s important public health guidelines are followed this holiday to avoid going back into a lockdown.