As people face the second year in a row of limited holiday gatherings, some may be wondering if there is a light at the end of the proverbial COVID tunnel. The answer is yes, and experts say to just hang on for a little longer.
As of early December, both Ontario and Quebec have gathering limits in place. They include a maximum of 25 people indoors for both private parties and public events in Ontario, while Quebec has capped private gatherings at 10 people from three different households.
Private gatherings are behind at least least 50 per cent of new COVID-19 cases, said Dr. Gerald Evans, an infectious disease specialist at Queen's University.
"So, they're a clear source of the transmission routes that are causing COVID cases to rise," he said.
While much of eastern Ontario has a relatively high vaccination rate, vaccines aren't perfect and won't halt COVID completely, he said, and heading into the winter, cases numbers are only going to go up, which could put more strain on hospitals across the region.
"So what we're looking for really, I think, is unfortunately another winter season where we have to be very careful," he said, adding he expects after this winter we should be able to start considering the SARS-CoV-2 virus seasonal, barring any major surprises.
Just because people can't — or may not want to — get together with multiple friends and family, doesn't mean they can't keep in touch, just like last holiday season. And this time around, most people should hopefully be well versed on how to unmute their mics.
"We've heard from many families that it is a difficult time. It's the second year in a row where they can't gather, they can't be with friends and family and of course that's going to have a negative impact on their mood and mental health," said Vivian Lee, a psychology professor at Carleton University.
She said people could try a video dinner or present opening. Checking in on each other with phone calls and text messages will likely be the new normal, at least for now.
But she said many people often put a lot of pressure on themselves to have a perfect holiday, pandemic or not, and letting go of that idea can ultimately be the most helpful.
"We can't engage in all the social activity we want to do, but thinking about other ways that we can cope, and what we could do, to maybe fill that space, might be a better way of focusing on our positive mental health rather than what we can't do."