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IHA and BCCDC speak to safe holiday celebrations during Covid-19

UPDATE on IH numbers:

·         Two additional COVID-19 cases were reported in Interior Health since yesterday, bringing the total in IH since the start of the pandemic to 559.

·         18 cases are active and on isolation

·         One person is in hospital

·         Seven cases are linked to an outbreak at Calvary Chapel Kelowna, declared on Sept. 25.

The following is attributable to Susan Brown, president and CEO, Interior Health:

“The provincial health officer’s recent COVID-19 modelling shows B.C. is starting to bend the curve back down; however, now is a fragile time as we move into the fall. As we approach another long weekend, our celebrations must look different this year and the best way to show thanks is through protecting the ones we love from COVID-19.

“If you do gather with others, keep your groups small, sit apart from one another, don’t share food or drinks, and absolutely stay home if you feel sick. People in the Interior are working hard to protect the community from COVID-19 transmission in order to protect our health-care system, schools, and long-term care homes.

“On behalf of everyone at Interior Health, we are thankful this year for the community’s unending commitment in the fight against COVID-19. Thank you and happy Thanksgiving.”

Meanshilw, the BC Centre for Disease Control offered tips to celebrate seasonal holidays safely: 

As the days get shorter, many of us look forward to fall holidays and festivities. With COVID-19 still a concern across the province, here are some things you can consider to help make celebrations safer for everyone.

Keep in mind that the more space you have and the less time you spend with others, the safer you are when getting together.

If you are hosting

Gatherings outside and inside

  • Keep gatherings small, local and within your social group this year.
  • Celebrate outside when you can.
    • Bundle up for picnics or a late season BBQ.
    • Considering visiting a heated, outdoor patio.
    • Be mindful of safety around outdoor heaters and open fires, particularly if children are involved.
  • If you plan for an indoor visit with people outside of your household, here are a few things you can do to make your time inside together safer.
    • Keep your gathering small, try limit your gathering to your “stick to six” social group.
    • Check-in with guests before they arrive to make sure that they are feeling well and don’t have symptoms or recent contact with a confirmed case.
    • Visit in larger rooms where there is more space for people to sit or stand farther apart.
    • Choose well-ventilated spaces (spaces where there is lots of fresh air) and open windows if you can.
    • Limit your time indoors together (the less time you spend in a confined space together, the better). For example, consider offering “just dessert” rather than a long meal.
    • Consider the impacts that alcohol and substance use can have on maintaining physical distancing.
    • If you need to pass someone in a tight space (like a hallway or on stairs) try to pass them quickly or wait until they are gone before you enter hallways or stairs.
    • Encourage non-contact greetings such as elbow bumps or waves to reduce physical contact.
    • Keep music low to reduce the need for loud talking or shouting.
    • Make sure you have a place for guests to wash their hands.

Food preparation

  • If you are providing food, try to minimize crowding and sharing during meals.
    • Ask guests to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before food is served.
    • Consider having only one person plate meals instead of having a buffet service.
    • If serving “family style” encourage people to serve themselves with their own clean cutlery.
    • For shared snacks, hors d'oeuvres, candy, nuts or finger foods, provide guests with utensils, plates and napkins so they can have their own servings.
    • Seat guests as far apart as possible, consider assigning seats based on household or social groups.
    • Discourage people from sharing anything that has been in their mouth, such as drinks.
  • There is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread from eating food prepared by others. However, you should avoid making food for others if you feel sick or are positive for COVID-19 or are self-isolating. Use good hygiene practices when cooking and remember to wash your hands:
    • Before and after preparing food,
    • After handling raw foods, and
    • After using the washrooms, touching pets, changing diapers and wiping runny noses, yours or others.
  • More information about COVID-19 and food safety can be found here.

Cleaning and hand sanitizer

  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces before and after you have visitors.
    • Don’t forget to clean objects such as front door handles, faucets and light switches.
    • Use Health Canada approved cleaning and disinfecting products or use the bleach and water ratios from the BCCDC site.
  • Stay safe with hand sanitizer.
    • Keep it away from candles and open flames, hand sanitizer is flammable.
    • Keep hand sanitizer away from food preparation areas, it can be poisonous if consumed.

Celebration activities

  • Reconsider indoor singing and dancing since these can increase the risk of transmitting COVID-19. If these activities are an important part of your celebration consider:
    • Move singing or dancing outside, or
    • Keep dancing to those within your small social group.
  • Gift giving and receiving
    • It is unlikely that gift wrap can transfer the COVID-19 virus although you should wash your hands before gift giving and receiving.

If you are attending

Here are some tips to keep in mind when attending celebrations

  • Respect physical distancing efforts.
  • Practice good hand hygiene, wash your hands often or bring hand sanitizer.
  • Bring your own food and drink.
  • Use good respiratory etiquette and wear your mask when asked.
  • If you need to pass someone in a tight space (like a hallway or on stairs) try to pass them quickly or wait until they are gone before you enter hallways or stairs.
  • Bundle up for picnics or a late season BBQ.
  • Be mindful of safety around outdoor heaters and open fires, particularly if children are involved.

Attending seasonal activities

  • When going to seasonal activities like a pumpkin patch, corn maze, light display or decorated gardens:
  • Plan ahead- check to see if you need sign up or schedule a time to visit.
  • Avoid crowded places and have a plan to leave if venues become crowded.
  • Respect physical distancing efforts.
  • Be patient in parking lots.
  • Practice good hand hygiene, wash your hands often or bring hand sanitizer.
  • Bring your own food and drink.
  • Use good respiratory etiquette and wear your mask when asked.
  • For more information on Halloween activities, please visit the Halloween page.