ARNPRIOR, ONT. -- There was a stern message from the Renfrew County and District Health Unit earlier this week regarding Thanksgiving get-togethers this long weekend.

“What I’m telling you is that we’re in trouble, we’re in deep trouble,” said Dr. Robert Cushman, Acting Medical Officer of Health for Renfrew County. “And we don’t want to get into deeper trouble.”

The warning came as the county’s top doctor reiterated the advice from the province on Wednesday to celebrate Thanksgiving only with those in your household.

“Unfortunately you’re not going to like it, but to contain COVID-19 and prevent further shut downs, we have to do what I’m going to tell you,” Cushman explained before laying out two more guidelines for festivities this weekend.

“No travel in, no travel out,” says Cushman. “That’s how the virus comes and goes.” 

Despite cooler temperatures forecasted for Sunday and Monday, Cushman also suggested gathering outdoors. 

“Seriously consider having an outdoor event. I know it’s cold but we’re good Canadians. You can bundle up.”

It’s forced people like Crystal Phelps to change her plans for Thanksgiving weekend. 

“We normally would get together with family, like a big dinner, but that’s not happening this weekend.”

Phelps says she and her family would normally spend the long weekend at their cabin with a group of up to 12 people. Instead, she was loading a turkey for five into her vehicle at an Arnprior grocery store. 

“It’s just myself, my husband, and our three kids. I’m going to be making a lot of stews and casseroles, it’s a big turkey.”

As of Saturday, Oct. 10, there were five active cases of COVID-19 in Renfrew County, but the call to minimize get together was made due to the proximity of the Ottawa hot zone, where there are more than 800 active cases.

Dr. Cushman says our actions this Thanksgiving weekend could impact the upcoming holiday season. 

“We want to preserve Christmas and, to do that, we’re going to have to really bear down and work hard and this Thanksgiving weekend will be key.”