For the second year in a row, public health officials are urging Ottawa residents to take COVID-19 precautions during the Thanksgiving long weekend and limit large gatherings.
Last year, Ontario saw COVID-19 case totals shoot up two weekends after Thanksgiving, as officials put some of the blame on the gatherings held during the holiday.
Last fall's festivities took place prior to the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, but caution is still needed this year, said Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health.
"We need to think about the vulnerabilities of people that you might be meeting with," Etches told reporters at a news conference Wednesday.
"Sometimes in the past we've seen a link with transmission and holiday weekends. We don't want to take off our sense of being cautious this fall too early. We want to hold things steady."
Those vulnerable people include residents who can't get their shots due to pre-existing medical conditions, Etches said, as well as children under 12 who are not yet eligible for immunization.
"COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for children aged five to 11 is on the horizon," Etches said. "But we're not there yet."
Ontario is currently in Step 3 of its reopening plan, which means the general gathering limits are 25 people inside and 100 people outside.
With people socializing indoors as fall weather arrives, Etches said Ottawans should continue to limit their close contacts, keep gatherings small, and wear masks.
Doing so, she said, will allow health officials to focus on keeping schools and businesses open.
Etches said her own family planned to cook together on Thanksgiving, while also holding distanced outdoor visits with neighbours and going for hikes.
"My outlook for this fall is one of cautious optimism. I'm hopeful we can avoid further lockdowns, serious illness and death, or overwhelming our health-care system."