The best gift you can give is the gift of health. It’s essential that everyone follow public health guidelines – handwashing, mask-wearing, physical distancing and the government’s new shutdown restrictions – so we can spread cheer not COVID-19. The decisions we make during the next few weeks will have a direct impact on how many people get sick from COVID-19 as we head into a new year.

To keep your family, community and you safe, Ontario’s doctors ask that you take these 10 steps:

1. Celebrate only with members of your household.

The virus spreads when people come into contact with each other. It is essential that you avoid gathering with anyone other than household members. If you live alone, you may consider joining one other household. This doesn’t mean you can’t connect with friends and family. Explore virtual options for celebrating together and create new virtual holiday traditions.

2. Support local businesses

Wherever possible, support local businesses by shopping online using curbside pickup and ordering takeout.

3. Wear a mask.

Wearing a mask protects you from spreading the virus to others. Keep your mask on unless you are home with your housemates or outside and can maintain a guaranteed minimum of two metres distance from others. Remember to wash your mask – and your hands – frequently.

4. Avoid travel.

Follow the government’s shutdown restrictions and stay home. Do not travel between regions, provinces or countries except for essential reasons. Traveling poses a major risk as you could unknowingly carry the virus to a new region or bring it back to your community. This holiday, the best way to gather is virtually.

5.  Continue to follow public health advice.

We know it is not easy, especially during the holiday season, but if we all follow public health advice, we can help stop the spread of COVID-19.

6. Get tested if you suspect you have COVID.

If you have confirmed or suspected exposure to COVID-19 or if you experience any COVID-19 symptoms, you must get tested for COVID-19. Testing is key to understanding where and how COVID-19 is spreading in the community. If there is a chance you may have COVID-19, getting tested and confirming your status is the best gift you can give your community.

7.  Trace your contacts if you get COVID.

If you get COVID-19 you MUST trace your contacts so anyone you may have exposed to the virus knows to get tested. This also enables your public health unit to trace the virus transmission in your community. You can keep track of your contacts by downloading the COVID Alert app or manually logging the places you go and the people you come into contact with.

8. Connect virtually with others who may be lonely.

The festive season without in-person gatherings doesn’t have to be lonely. Staying connected virtually with friends and family, especially those who are elderly, vulnerable or live alone is a great way to safely spread good cheer.

9. Take care of your mental health.

This season will be unlike any other and that can impact your mental health. Pay attention to how you are feeling and try talking about the emotions you experience. If you need additional support, seek care from a trained professional. Those you love may also be struggling with their mental health. If you are able, reach out to them virtually to listen and help them feel supported.

10. Talk about your health and safety concerns.

If you feel pressure to participate in an activity or gathering that doesn’t make you feel safe, be honest about your concerns. If a loved one communicates their concerns about an activity to you, it is important that you listen to them and respect their wishes. Everyone is concerned about their health. The best gift you can give is to be honest about your intentions to protect your health and the health of those around you and to listen to others when they communicate their intentions to you.