Keeping the season safe: Alberta infectious disease specialist weighs in on another pandemic holiday

2021’s holiday season is going to look a lot different than the one that came before it, but festivities this December will still need to be scaled back.

That was the message from the federal and provincial governments this week, as decision makers get set to roll out their holiday guidance for Christmas.

In Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney is expected to roll back at least some of the province’s public health restrictions in time for the holidays.

He made the announcement in Calgary Friday, where he even detailed his own Christmas plans that he admitted would not follow the current restrictions in place.

But regardless of what Tuesday’s announcement looks like, an infectious disease specialist says there’s still ways families can keep themselves safe while gathering this holiday season.

“Everybody is so sick of this, so it’s going to be a tough sell,” Dr. Lynora Saxinger said, “but we should still try to keep gatherings small.”

Saxinger says the holiday season has lots of unknowns such as questions about the Omicron variant and additional vaccine coverage.

“So if there are some friends or family who are unvaccinated that you want to gather with, really look at those outdoor, hot-chocolaty-type of activities,” Saxinger said.

And for those who will host large gatherings regardless of public health guidance, there are still available precautions.

“Some degree of distancing – especially from the more vulnerable family members – might make sense,” she told CTV News. “And be careful about the amount of time in the same airspace or (practice good) ventilation. If people kind of minimize any extra contacts they have in the time period before a gathering, that also might be quite helpful.”

Potential restrictions and fear of virus spread may also push some Albertans outdoors.

Christmas in Kensington organizers say their holiday street festival is always a good option.

“I think my favourite part of this is how much joy people are feeling to be out in the world again,” Annie MacInnis said. “These kind of alternative activities like we’re doing here in Kensington are so important for Christmas this year.”

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