With ICU cases climbing toward potentially devastating levels, health organizations plead for Ontarians to celebrate holiday season safely

Dec. 8, 2020

As COVID-19 cases reach record highs and the holiday season approaches, the association representing Ontario's hospitals and professional associations representing nurses, physicians and respiratory therapists are issuing an urgent and united plea for immediate action. It's the government's responsibility to put in place strong public health measures we know can prevent and control the spread of the virus. And, now more than ever, every Ontarian has a moral responsibility to strictly adhere to these important measures.

The number of people in intensive care in Ontario hospitals with COVID-19 is rising, with potentially devastating consequences for patients. If hospitals, emergency departments and ICUs are full, it means that surgeries, procedures, diagnostic tests and routine care will have to be delayed, adding to a substantial backlog not just in hot spots, but throughout Ontario. This risk affects all patients, not only those with COVID-19 – the postponement of cardiac or cancer surgeries, for example, puts thousands more in harm's way.

In the face of all this, Ontario's healthcare professionals continue to care for patients with courage, expertise and compassion. They are often called heroes, but they are also human beings under enormous physical, mental and emotional strain. Our organizations stand behind them, and we call on all Ontarians to join us by doing everything they can to curve the spread of the virus, save lives and limit the damage.

We know that fatigue with public health restrictions has set in, and that it is particularly painful to cancel traditional family gatherings – but this sacrifice pales in comparison to the pain of losing a loved one or watching them suffer. While seniors and other vulnerable populations are at greatest risk from COVID-19, we have also seen serious health consequences and deaths among younger people, and we appeal to them to follow public health guidelines and thank those that are doing the right thing.

No one is unaffected by COVID-19, and no one is exempt from doing their part. Whether you have a grandparent living in a long-term care home, a colleague with a heart condition, or a friend who is a nurse, physician, or respiratory therapist, we all know someone who needs and deserves our protection.

In the spirit of love, family and generosity that characterizes the holiday season, we ask all Ontarians to celebrate safely and responsibly. Celebrating at a distance is the best way to support healthcare professionals, and it is a small price to pay compared to the grief of those who could face far greater losses if we fail to do our part.

Anthony Dale
President and CEO, Ontario Hospital Association

Dr. Doris Grinspun
CEO, Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Dr. Samantha Hill
President, Ontario Medical Association

Dianne Martin
CEO, Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario

Paula Smith
President-Elect, Respiratory Therapy Society of Ontario

Here are the top five things all Ontarians can do to protect themselves and others:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Wear a mask or face covering at all times, unless you are at home with housemates or outdoors at a guaranteed two metres' distance from others.
  • Stay away from crowded places.
  • Celebrate or gather only with members of your household. Don't invite others into your home.
  • Prepare for contact tracing if you get COVID-19. Download the COVID Alert app and/or keep track of where you go and when.

Ontario Hospital Association
The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) is the voice of the province's public hospitals. The OHA serves hospitals through advocacy, learning and engagement, labour relations and data and analytics to build a better health system. We do this by conducting evidence-based research, proposing ideas, convening members and partners, and encouraging responsible dialogue about change.

Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario
The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. For more information about RNAO, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Ontario Medical Association
The Ontario Medical Association represents Ontario's 43,000-plus physicians, medical students and retired physicians, advocating for and supporting doctors while strengthening the leadership role of doctors in caring for patients. Our vision is to be the trusted voice in transforming Ontario's health-care system.

Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario
The Registered Practical Nurses Association (WeRPN) is the professional voice of Ontario's 45,000 Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs). WeRPN builds the profile and professional capacity of RPNS so we can better care for our patients and better support our fellow health-care workers.

Respiratory Therapy Society of Ontario
The Respiratory Therapy Society of Ontario promotes and advances the interest of the profession of respiratory therapists.  We represent over 3,000 respiratory therapists across the province across all sectors and advocate for our patients. 

For further information: Media contact: Aslan Hart, Public Affairs Specialist, Ontario Hospital Association at Media contact: Marion Zych, Director of Communications, at 647-406-5605 (cell), 416-599-1925 (ext. 209), or Media contact: Leslie Shepherd at or 647-300-1753. Media contact: Tiff Blair, Director of Policy and Communications, at (647) 290-4162 or Media contact: RTSO Administrator at or 647-729-2717.

Contact info

Marion Zych
Director of Communications
Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO)