City and Province Release Advice for COVID Christmas Celebrations and Shopping

The Christmas season is approaching, but given current events people are going to have to concede that they won’t be able to celebrate the season in a way that’s normal or traditional. On Wednesday, the Government of Ontario outlined its best advice for how people should spend the holidays, while the City of Guelph also announced some measures on how they will work locally to make sure everyone has a safe and COVID-free holiday.

“I know there are many people looking forward to their traditional family celebrations at this time of year, but to keep your loved ones safe, traditions will have to be adjusted,” said Premier Doug Ford at his daily media briefing on Wednesday.

For obvious reasons, Ontario’s Medical Officer of Health and the Ministry of Health are recommending that everyone spend the holidays *only* with the people in their own household. In lieu of the usual family gatherings and holiday parties, the Provincial government is recommending virtual gatherings, outdoor activities (with physical distancing),  or pouring your holiday cheer into charitable activities.

“We understand the traditional importance of visiting family and gathering during the holiday season, but as we are continuing to live in unprecedented times, we need to look at new ways of celebrating and marking special occasions,” said Dr. David Williams in a statement. “Everyone has a role to play in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and by strictly following these measures we can all plan for a healthy holiday season while keeping our loved ones safe.”

If you are a university of college student, or if you have to travel somewhere other than your household during the holidays, public health is recommending that you quarantine for 10 to 14 days before embarking on your trip. But if you are showing any of the symptoms of COVID-19, no matter how mild those systems are, do not risk the health of your family and quarantine where you are out of an abundance of caution.

In the last several weeks, Ontario as seen a rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, which has created concern about an even more rapid pace of spread once people start traveling for the holiday, and start gathering en masse to do holiday shopping. That’s one of the reasons why the City of Guelph is going to increase their bylaw compliance checks as we enter the month of December.

“To echo the words of Ontario’s Premier and Chief Medical Officer of Health, we’re all in this together,” said Mayor Cam Guthrie in a statement. “We are trusting people to do the right thing and only travel when it’s necessary.”

“No matter where people are from, they should be following guidelines from public health officials to keep themselves and others safe,” added Doug Godfrey, the general manager of Operations Department.

In a media release from City Hall, bylaw is reminding Guelph businesses that they need to follow COVID-19 protection protocols: have hand sanitiser at the entrance, keep all customers and staff two-metres apart and masked the whole time, and follow capacity restrictions where necessary. Bylaw also said that they’re prepared to issue fines for severe and repeat offenders, which can be as low as $750 or as high as $100,000.

While public health and the local government are reminding everyone to be cautious, Guelph’s business community is also working to promote themselves this holiday season. The Guelph Chamber of Commerce is asking people to support small businesses in the Royal City by speaking with their money, and by singing their praises on social media using the hashtag #Guelphshops.

“Local businesses are the livelihood of our community and supporting local has never been more important,” said Chamber President Shakiba Shayani in a statement.

“We encourage Guelphites to shop, eat, and support local, whenever they can. We applaud businesses in Guelph who have pivoted their operations to ensure a safe customer experience, including options for shopping online and curbside pickup. We encourage all businesses to continue to implement the recommended safety protocols outlined by public health,” Shayani added.

On Wednesday there were 20 new cases of COVID-19 in our region on Wednesday according to Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health. That brings the current number of active cases up to 150, with 47 in Guelph, 65 in Wellington County, 14 in Dufferin County, and 24 that are so far unassigned. The number of COVID fatalities in our area went up by one in the last couple of days, and now sits at 39.

“As we enter the holiday season, we must remain vigilant. COVID is still circulating in our community and cases are rising,” said our local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nicola Mercer in a statement. “As a community, we want to stay as open as possible, support local businesses and keep all of us safe. To do that, we need to continue to adhere to the public health measures that protect the patrons and staff of our local businesses.”

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