The holiday season is here, and with it, an urgent public health message to all York Region residents.

As we write this note, COVID-19 cases are climbing rapidly in York Region and across the province. The recently identified Omicron variant transmits very quickly, and the risk of severe illness and hospitalization is dramatically higher among those who are unvaccinated.

The Ontario Government has added new restrictions to slow the spread and accelerated booster dose rollout to individuals 18 and over.

If you have not received your first or second dose of the vaccine or are eligible for a booster, now is the time. It will provide you, your loved ones and our community with a vital layer of protection throughout the winter season.

With now more than 700,000 York Region residents eligible for a COVID-19 booster dose, we ask for your patience as we work together with our community and health care partners to quickly ramp up to meet the expanded vaccine eligibility and demand.

The holiday season might not be what we all expected, but our collective efforts to limit transmission, protect our hospital capacity and each other will steer us toward brighter days. At least part of the story we tell future generations will be how we came together as a community, more connected than ever.

Find out how to celebrate holidays and festive events more safely here.

Lastly, remember to be kind to one another, our health care professionals and countless others who serve the public good.

On behalf of all of us, thank you for doing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19. Please stay safe, get vaccinated and have a happy holiday season.