Ottawa Public Health is advising people to only celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend with members of their immediate household, even if gatherings are held outside.
Dr. Vera Etches, medical officer of health, made that recommendation Monday during a joint teleconference with Dr. Brigitte Pinard, the director of public health for the Outaouais.
Etches said the troubling resurgence of COVID-19 in Ottawa and Gatineau means gatherings between households are simply too risky.
"Like many other things, Thanksgiving will look and feel different this year," Etches said. "We are asking that you spend Thanksgiving only with people in your household. Perhaps this year, Thanksgiving can be a virtual supper."
On Monday, Ottawa logged 82 new COVID-19 cases and one new death. There are currently 847 active cases of COVID-19 in the city, and 294 people have died.
Even outdoor gatherings around the holiday are not advised, said Etches.
"My recommendation is to stick to your household, because we've seen examples where people gathered in a park and someone was sick and then more people got sick with COVID," she said.
For now, Ottawa Public Health recommends people avoid close contact with anyone they do not live with, except for one or two social supports.
"That means if you have grandparents that help with child care or that take some pressure off, so parents can do something, then that is acceptable," she said.
Etches said single people may also chose to bubble with one or two others to stave off feelings of isolation.
Other steps to limit spread
Etches is also advising parents to avoid letting their children play too closely with neighbourhood kids at places like the playground.
"We should be looking for ways to make sure that our children don't mix outside of school," she said.
One way to do that could involve early morning visits to the playground, Etches said, when parks are less busy.
On Friday, Toronto's top doctor, Dr. Eileen de Villa, urged the province to take further steps to stop the spread of COVID-19, including prohibiting indoor dining service at restaurants and halting indoor sports and recreation.
Etches said it's up to politicians to balance the benefits of the closures with the harms they cause, including to people's livelihoods. For now, she recommends people in Ottawa only eat out or go to a bar with those they live with.