Like Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, we now find ourselves confronted by the Ghost of Christmas Past.
COVID-19, or at least the Omicron variant of the virus, has spread throughout the world with alarming speed. The World Health Organization designated it a variant of concern on Nov. 26, and in less than a month, there are almost 15,000 positive COVID-19 cases in Canada, compared with only 3,000 when the WHO made its announcement.
While the number of positive COVID-19 cases remained relatively stable in Manitoba during the early part of December, the daily caseloads have surged upward this week. We’ve learned the hard way during two years of cyclical pandemic pain that it is foolish to believe the virus and its harmful effects will pass us by.
While the number of positive COVID–19 cases remained relatively stable in Manitoba during the early part of December, the daily caseloads have surged upward this week.
A model from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects three billion Omicron infections around the world during the next three months. It’s a staggering number.
There have been anecdotal reports that Omicron’s symptoms are less lethal than those of COVID-19’s previous variants, including reports from South Africa, where Omicron was first discovered. But Christmas 2021 is not the time for letting our collective guard down on the basis of random observations.
Researchers studying the new variant haven’t had enough time to fully determine whether its relatively low level of severity is a result of the prevalence of COVID-19 vaccines. Nor have they determined how effective the vaccines are at fighting the pathogen.
What we do know is those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 are most susceptible to contracting the virus, and are also most likely to be hardest hit by its symptoms. Gambling your life — or the lives of those around you — on the notion that Omicron is only a mild flu is the worst kind of wager.
A safer bet is to follow the valuable lessons of the Code Red Christmas 2020, when there were no vaccines available in Manitoba. Most of us limited our holiday gatherings to members of our immediate household, as public-health officials urged; many of the subsequent positive cases were related to larger gatherings of people who ignored the government orders.
The province’s new rules, which went into effect on Tuesday, allow gatherings of immediate household members and up to 10 other people at one time, provided all present are fully vaccinated. Given the current upsurge in cases, these restrictions might seem too lax, but the province’s intent is clear: keep our Christmas celebrations small.
For most people, preparing for the holidays is as big a deal as the day’s excitement itself.
We find the perfect Christmas tree and decorate it to lift our spirits. We hunt for the perfect gift for loved ones to show how much we care for them. We spend hours in the kitchen preparing for a feast to enjoy and on the big day. We celebrate Christ’s birth with those closest to us.
Many have included getting their COVID-19 vaccinations or booster shots in their Christmas preparations, and others have added medical-grade masks that are more effective at preventing the spread of the virus than other facial coverings.
Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Past offered Scrooge a lesson in generosity. By getting COVID-19 vaccinations or boosters and following the common-sense rules of the pandemic — such as limiting the size of gatherings over the holidays — we, too, can provide a most generous gift to our families, friends and our community.