- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

What you do in the next few weeks will affect people you love, and people you have never met.
Let me introduce two of them, young women who are front-line health care workers - the "heroes" we keep talking about.

K. has worked in long-term care in our area for the four years since her graduation from Georgian College as a Personal Support Worker.

She's never met her infant niece, or seen any of her family in person since February. She hasn't hugged her own grandmother out of concern for other people's grandparents.

After a year of a painful condition that required expensive medication and days off without pay, K's looking forward to the relief of major surgery scheduled for mid-January. Rising COVID cases in Ontario, driven by holiday gatherings, might cancel that on short notice.

L. is a street nurse in Toronto. She has worked throughout the pandemic with some of the most vulnerable people in her community, while advocating and fundraising for the basic supplies to keep them and her co-workers safe.

She also is a new aunt who cannot hold her nephew, and a granddaughter who has to stay away from a grandmother she loves.

She sent us a message the day we made the decision that this would be a “virtual” Christmas in our family.

She said “I’ve been spending most of the week trying to convince family and friends to give up the one bit of hope they’ve been looking forward to. I hate hate hate it. I’m tired.”

The next day she came down with COVID symptoms. The assessment centre sent her to Emerg.

One less “hero” on the front-lines this week.

Neither of these women had a birthday party this year, and they won't be at any family Christmas celebrations or New Year's parties, to keep your family and those they care for safe.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Ian Arra confirms that gatherings in private homes have been the major source of transmission of COVID-19 in our region since spring.

We have had no COVID-19 deaths in Grey-Bruce, but people coming from or going to visit orange, red and grey zones may bring an end to that reassuring record and stretch our care systems in the coming months. Our field hospital could be put into service.

An expected surge in cases following family gatherings will make more front-line health care workers sick and put enormous stress on those who remain at work and all of their families. Surgeries, cancer treatments, routine health care services will all be at risk.

The Owen Sound Hub shares the message of the Ontario Hospital Association, the Ontario Nurses Association, family physicians and Public Health:

This is in your hands. Your well-washed, responsible, capable, caring hands.
For those you love, and those you've never met, be their hero and stay in your own home this holiday.