By Dr. Kevin Wasko, Physician Executive for Integrated Rural Health
Over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all craving human interaction. We long to gather with family and friends. Holidays and celebrations carry special meaning to all of us and are important in order to feel connected to one’s community and social circles.
As our case counts start to decrease, there is a temptation to attend or host social gatherings. Perhaps you know that you have been following the public health orders and you trust that your friends or family are as well. However, over the course of the past year, we have seen time and again that large gatherings carry risk and are a major factor in community spread of COVID-19.
People don’t intend to use a social gathering as a means to spread COVID-19, but it happens nonetheless. It could be that one person at the party was exposed days earlier at work or school, or another thinks that the runny nose and cough are due to seasonal allergies. All those who attended the party have risked exposure to COVID-19 just by being around those possible COVID-19-positive people. Then they go back to their homes, families and jobs.
This is how a super-spreader event takes hold. This recently occurred in the Southwest where a single gathering has spread to dozens of people in numerous communities. Critical illness can be traced back to that event. The impact is still being felt as COVID-19 continues to spread in the area.
Fortunately, with warm weather upon us, we have the opportunity to get outside where it is easier to distance and where COVID is less likely to spread. It means we can also participate in activities such as hiking, cycling and water sports in a distanced manner. Remaining active and maintaining social connection is important for our mental health and well-being. Please pursue these smarter options when gathering with others!
Right now our province is doing better: our immunization rates continue to climb and our case numbers are dropping. However, that’s not reason to let our guard down yet. We need more people fully immunized with two doses and community spread curtailed before we are able to gather like we used to. Hang in there! We will be out of the pandemic soon enough if we all do our part: wash our hands, wear a mask, get immunized and be smart about gathering with friends and family! Stay safe!