Tell mom you love her from afar this Mother's Day: health experts

With Mother’s Day upon us, Ottawa health officials are urging people to spend time with their parents from a distance this Sunday.

Unknowns make in-person visits unadvisable, says epidemiologist

While the vaccination rollout is well underway, Ontario health experts are advising people celebrate Mother's Day at a distance this year. (Shutterstock / Africa Studio)

With Mother's Day upon us, health officials are urging people to spend time with their parents from a distance this year.

"This Mother's Day, I do encourage you to participate virtually, celebrate virtually, even if your mother or your grandmother has been vaccinated," said Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, during a recent press briefing. 

"We want to continue those behaviours that will keep COVID transmission as low as possible until more people are protected,"

According to Ottawa Public Health, as of Friday, 368,616 residents had received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose.  Of those, another 27,993 residents had also been given their second dose, roughly three per cent of the city's population.

Provincewide, more than six million vaccine doses have been administered, Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a tweet.  

While the United States recently updated its guidelines for gatherings involving fully vaccinated people, it's unlikely in the Ottawa area that both parents and children will be fully vaccinated, said Patrick Saunders-Hastings, an epidemiologist with a PhD in Canadian pandemic preparedness and response from Carleton University.

Saunders-Hastings also leads the life sciences practice at Gevity, a Canadian health consulting company that focuses on epidemiology considerations that have arisen during the pandemic. 

He said it's important to remember that Ontario remains under a stay-at-home order. 

And while a single dose offers some protection from the virus, there are still many unknowns that make in-person visits unadvisable. 

WATCH | Keep your Mother's Day celebrations virtual again this year, OPH says

Keep your Mother’s Day celebrations virtual again this year, OPH says

CBC News Ottawa

3 months ago
Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, says residents should celebrate Mother’s Day “from a distance” again this year to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, even if relatives have one dose of the vaccine. 0:56

"We still have a relatively poor idea of what it can mean in terms of asymptomatic or mild infection for those that are partially vaccinated, as well as for their ability to transmit that further," he said. 

"Even if your mother or grandmother is protected from more severe infections or death ... there is still the possibility that she could acquire a mild or asymptomatic infection —and then just pass that on further."

It's also important to keep in mind that protection from the first jab isn't instantaneous, Saunders-Hastings added.

"It takes at least two weeks for immunity after that first vaccine to really ramp up — some might suggest that [takes] as long as three weeks — so it's really important not to consider yourself protected immediately after getting the vaccine," he said. 

At Wednesday's briefing, Etches said she understands how difficult the pandemic has been on people's mental health, and how much they want to hug their parents.

Still, she encouraged people to celebrate the holiday safely from afar. 

"Stick with your household," Etches said. "Continue to find special and creative ways to tell someone that you love them from a distance," she said.


Joe Tunney reports for CBC News in Ottawa. He can be reached at

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