This may be the safest holiday since the pandemic, but people should still protect themselves: Dr. Lisa Barrett

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Lisa Barrett is pictured during an interview with CTV Atlantic on Dec. 13, 2023.

For the first time since the start of the pandemic, infectious disease specialist Dr. Lisa Barrett says we have a chance for a healthy holiday season.

While people have a chance at a more normal holiday, Barrett says they should still be proactive and take measures to protect themselves and others from getting sick.

“I think every other (holiday season) we were really concerned, since the pandemic,” she says.

“I consider this our first real good chance at a great Christmas, so we want people well.”


Barrett says one of the ways people can protect themselves and others is by getting the flu and COVID-19 vaccines(opens in a new tab).

“There’s lots of flu vaccines around and there’s lots of COVID vaccines around. It’s not too late. They are good matches to the viruses that are circulating and there is benefit.”

Getting vaccinated doesn’t mean you’ll never get the flu or COVID, but Barrett says you won’t get as sick and you’ll help protect those around you.

In her personal experience, Barrett says she’s come across a number of people who don’t think they need to continue to get the COVID boosters. She says she’s received her shots and suggests her friends and family do the same.

“I don’t say that for every vaccine. I’m saying it for these ones right now,” she says.

“This is a different formulation for COVID. It’s a good match for flu.”


Barrett says there is an increase of people going to the hospital due to the flu.

“The last report from public health had six people per week in hospital, the week of December 2nd,” says Barrett.

“We do see many more than that in hospital with COVID. Don’t forget that, as you’re heading out to do the good part of Christmas and holidays, which is socializing, there’s lots of COVID around.”

If you’re having difficulty breathing and it’s not getting better, especially for those with underlying medical issues, Barrett says that’s the time to check with 811 or visit a hospital.

“Don’t wait for a week-and-a-half of symptoms before you test. Treatments that we have to keep you from getting sicker, if you are older or vulnerable or have immune system problems, work best if you test early.”


In order to keep people safe and hospitalization numbers down, Barrett suggests testing for COVID and wearing a mask when attending public gatherings.

If people do choose to wear a mask, Barrett says it should fit their face well.

“The surgical masks are ok, but the tighter the fit of the mask, the better off we are with this very spreadable virus,” she says.

Barrett also asks for latitude when it comes to mask-wearing in public.

“In bigger spaces, please consider doing it,” says Barrett.

Before going to social gatherings, Barrett suggests people test themselves for COVID-19.

When it comes to testing, she recommends checking the date on COVID-19 rapid test kits to ensure they aren’t expired.

“We in Nova Scotia are very grateful and, I think, lucky that we still have lots of rapid tests,” she said.

“There are lots around right now. Go get new ones and then use them.”

COVID-19 rapid test kits can be found at some libraries, MLA offices, and family resource centres. If someone tests positive, Barrett says they should report their result online.

Information on where to find COVID-19 rapid tests and report positive results can be found here:

“Let’s try and keep each other healthy. It’s OK to stay home (if you’re sick). It’s OK to be aware of respiratory viruses and keep each other safe,” says Barrett.

Source: CTV News