Canadian Thanksgiving was just last month, and the country has seen consequences as Covid-19 cases reach record highs. Now, Canadian leaders say Christmas celebrations are in jeopardy.
Thanksgiving in Canada fell on October 12 this year, and as family and friends gathered, it fueled a widespread surge in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Now, public health officials warned the health care system cannot handle a repeat at Christmas.
“Reducing your contacts, reducing your gatherings are going to be most important. And what we do in the coming days and weeks will determine what we get to do at Christmas,” pleaded Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a news conference Friday.
Casual socializing has been a key source of the spread in almost every part of Canada, said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer.
“An important driver of this increased disease activity continues to be informal social gatherings and activities both inside and outside our homes,” Tam said. “In these more relaxed settings such as family gatherings, birthday parties, holiday celebrations and recreational activities, it is natural to relax. But this can mean that it’s easy to forget and let our guard down on the necessary precautions.”
Tam warned new daily cases could more than double in just a few weeks if Canadians did not take health precautions seriously.
New modeling from Ontario was particularly sobering, with the province’s scientific experts warning case numbers and hospitalizations could reach or exceed crisis levels currently plaguing Europe.
“You’ll continue to see growth in cases, you’ll see more ICU cases, more deaths in long-term care homes. Even with new restrictions, if they were implemented today, you’d still see growth in mortality as it takes some time to filter through the system,” said Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, Dean of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, at a press conference Monday.
Health care is the responsibility of provinces and several of them, including Ontario and Alberta, are reluctant to implement stricter measures, fearing damage to the economy.
However, hundreds of doctors from across Canada have warned that only stricter measures and targeted closures will protect Canada’s hospitals from catastrophe.
“I do not believe there’s a way that the cases will change without action,” added Dr. Adalsteinn.
Cities and states in US discouraging large family gatherings
Canada’s Covid-19 jump after the holiday does pose a case-study for the US, as American Thanksgiving rapidly approaches even as Covid-19 cases have reached record highs in a number of states.
This week, New York limited indoor and outdoor gatherings in private homes in the state to just 10 people, as Covid-19 cases continue to rise.
“If you look at where the cases are coming from, if you do the contact tracing, you’ll see they’re coming from three main areas: establishments where alcohol is served, gyms, and indoor gatherings at private homes,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.
Chicago issued a similar restriction this week, and also implemented a stay-at-home advisory – encouraging residents to not invite family and friends over for Thanksgiving.
Last week, Massachusetts – after it reported 1,139 new coronavirus cases – also limited gatherings to 10 people indoors and 25 people outside.