'I just say whatever they write down for me:' Health official faces criticism over banter prior to COVID-19 briefing
Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario attends a news conference in Toronto, on Monday, January 27, 2020, as officials provide an update on the coronavirus in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
One of Ontario’s top public health officials is facing criticism over remarks she made into a hot microphone, minutes before the beginning of a COVID-19 briefing at Queen’s Park on Monday.
A short 15-second video circulating on Twitter shows Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe unpacking some papers next to her colleague Dr. David Williams prior to the beginning of their twice-weekly briefing.
At one point before the briefing gets underway, Yaffe remarks “I don’t know why I bring all these papers. I never look at them. I just say whatever they write down for me.”
Williams can then be heard laughing, though his exact remarks are inaudible.
The video has since been retweeted hundreds of times and on Wednesday morning NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said that it “just leaves more and more questions in people’s minds as to who is calling the shots” when it comes to the province’s pandemic response.
“Every time Doug Ford gets to a microphone and says he is listening to the advice of all these various experts it rings hollow because the evidence is starting to really pile up that that is not happening,” she said when asked about the video.
Yaffe has faced criticism on Twitter for the seemingly cavalier nature of her remarks and some have suggested that it is evidence that Premier Doug Ford is not listening to public health experts.
Yaffe, however, said in a statement provided to CTV News Toronto that she does “speak freely” during the briefings and was just referencing the fact that her communications team provide her with “researched and vetted remarks” to give at the beginning of the briefings, usually with the number of new cases and deaths reported in the province on that particular day.
“My comments overheard on a live microphone before Monday’s 3 p.m. COVID-19 media update were my bantering with Dr. Williams…” she said. “Of course I do speak freely and have no notes for responding to questions from the media.”
`I dont know why i bring so many papers.I never look at them.I just say whatever they write down for me` pic.twitter.com/k5XZjjjnpc— (@MarissaNovetsky) December 15, 2020