December – Merry and Safe Holidays!

Written by Comms Team, December 16, 2022

After two long years of holidays interrupted by COVID-19, like many of you, I am looking forward to a more normal sort of holiday season.

Christmas eve 2020, I was working with my team to put the finishing touches on our COVID-19 vaccine campaign plan that was set to begin shortly. It had been a whirlwind of a year. Not only because this would be my first Christmas as a father, but because the most significant pandemic of our generation was in full swing. The community had come together to protect each other and science had been working tirelessly to deliver a safe new vaccine in record time thanks to incredible global collaboration.

The vaccines arriving cold and on time was my Christmas wish. And they did! The beginning of the vaccine campaign was a stressful time in public health, but as more vaccine arrived, it turned to excitement. Everyone would soon have their chance to have protection against the COVID-19 virus. And protection it has given us!

Fast forward to present day, in my new home of Peterborough, we estimated that as many as 291 lives in the Peterborough Public Health region may have been saved due to efforts from the community and from impressive vaccine coverage. It is a lot to be proud of as a community and a country, but there are many lives lost to mourn. In the Peterborough Public Health region, we recently surpassed 100 deaths in 2022 and 130 since the beginning of the pandemic. We continue to see the impacts of the pandemic as lives are lost weekly.

This fall, as restrictions lifted and personal protective measures became relaxed, we saw the return of other respiratory viruses. This has been taking a toll on families and young children, but most of all on our health care system. Before the pandemic, flu season was a difficult time every year when the already limited health care capacity was stretched thin. But now, the health care system finds itself stretched thin, bare, and in crisis.

So, while this year will be more normal. For me, it will be a modified normal. I plan to invite in all of the merry and cheer, and none of the respiratory viruses!

Here are five of my tips to stay safe, and still have all of the fun this holiday season:

  1. Make sure you’re up to date on COVID-19 and Influenza vaccines. If you haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine or flu vaccine within the last 6 months, get a dose now. Peterborough Public Health continues to administer COVID-19 vaccines at Peterborough Square and local pharmacies offer COVID-19 and flu vaccines.
  2. Don’t be the one to bring a virus to the party. Stay home if you feel unwell. Any symptoms at all, but especially a fever and cough, mean that you should not be attending gatherings. Consider a virtual video option for your party so people who are sick don’t feel left out.
  3. Mask up. Wearing a mask, especially a tightly fitting KN95/N95 style mask, is the best protection in crowds or at social gatherings. Choosing to mask up for even part of the gathering can reduce your risk and the risk to those around you. If you feel social pressure not to mask up, then don’t. Social changes take time to become normalized in a society. For example, most of us could NEVER imagine drinking and driving but this was a common behaviour a few decades ago.
  4. Air out the party. Gone are the days of Grandma’s stuffy, hot, highly attended holiday parties. Ventilation in indoor settings can decrease risk of viruses transmitting. So crack windows or doors, get a cross breeze going, turn up your furnace fan, or use a HEPA filter in the party room to ensure the air you’re breathing will be safer for everyone. Even better, try a new tradition of attending a snowy outdoor gathering or connect on a walk.
  5. Check out what is happening in the community. Your risk of getting sick with a respiratory infection is higher if transmission is moderate to very high in the community. Check out the Peterborough Public Health COVID-19 and Respiratory Virus Index for the latest risk assessment to inform your decisions:

I am personally very excited for a modified normal this year.

With Holiday Love and Cheer,

Dr. Thomas Piggott
Medical Officer of Health
Peterborough Public Health