Quebec says you’re allowed to have two different holiday gatherings between Dec. 24th and 27th, with up to 10 people. Given that your elderly loved ones are most vulnerable to the virus, should they be on the guest list?
“What we all miss most is being at home with our families,” said Orysia Wywiorka, a senior who lives at the Bayview Centre long-term care home in Pointe-Claire.
As much as she would love to, she does not anticipate celebrating Christmas at a family gathering this year.
“We were saying that we’re going to celebrate Christmas in July and there’s a nice park across the way and that’s where we’re going to have it,” she said.
Quebec has not yet made it clear what seniors in care homes will be allowed to do over the holidays, promising a detailed guide early next week at the latest.
“That will be coming in a few days,” said health minister Christian Dubé on Thursday.
Even if you can celebrate in the company of your older relatives, experts say that does not mean you should.
“I think it’s up to the person to decide if you want to invite your 90-year-old mother and grandmother to the Christmas dinner,” said Dr. David Lussier, a geriatrician at the Montreal Geriatric Institute.
“Even if you take all the precautions you need, there is no risk zero.”
He said it depends how valuable gathering over the holidays is for your family.
“If the person doesn’t really feel like going, if it’s not something important for them, they don’t go. But if it’s something very important that it’s worth taking the risk, then they can go,” said Lussier.
Premier François Legault wants Quebecers to self-isolate for a week before Christmas to reduce the risk of transmission, and if that’s not possible, he says think twice about gathering with the elderly.
“The more they are vulnerable, the lower you must try to keep your risk,” Legault said.
Jewish General Hospital infectious diseases expert Dr. Matthew Oughton says given what scientists have learned about the incubation period of the novel coronavirus, a week of self-isolation is not enough.
“Get-togethers right now, you know, without a proper quarantine period, I think pose an unnecessary risk,” Oughton said.
If you do decide to have your elderly loved ones over, Lussier offers tips.
“You don’t share glasses, plates. You try to sit two metres from each other so that you take the necessary precautions when you’re there,” he said.
At Bayview, the hope is nobody leaves to go spend time with their families.
“We understand the need that all of us have to want to be with our families and loved ones over the holidays, but we want to keep people safe, first and foremost,” explained Corinne Preisler, the home’s director of resident services.
If people do leave seniors’ homes, Lussier said they will likely need to stay in isolation in their rooms for two weeks after returning.
If you don’t want to take any chances, the premier has a suggestion:
“You always have the choice not to have any gatherings,” Legault said.