CP24 - Toronto News | Breaking News Headlines | Weather, Traffic, Sports
'Stay the course': Toronto's top doctor answers your COVID-19 questions
Web Staff, CP24.com
Published Thursday, June 4, 2020 10:06PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 4, 2020 10:07PM EDT
Toronto's top doctor says the city is still seeing a number of cases in the community, and that's why she says it is still important to "stay the course."
During her weekly segment on CP24, Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto's medical officer of health, said the city is still seeing an average of 150 new COVID-19 cases a day.
"We do still need to be careful," she said, adding that she understands that physical distancing gets harder and harder as the weather becomes nicer.
"If we want to protect our community and we want to get back to having more opportunities to get together with people, we just need to stay the course."
De Villa also answered more COVID-19 questions from CP24 viewers.
CP24: Mayor John Tory is telling restaurant owners to get ready to reopen. What do you make of this? Are we ready for this?
De Villa: I hope we are. The weather is inviting for that. I think the thing about COVID-19 that we know, now that we've lived with it for several months now, is that the transmission risk is lower when we are outside. Patios opening provides us with an opportunity to enjoy the warm weather, which is only here for a limited amount of time but to do so in a safe fashion.
CP24: How is the contact tracing going for Toronto Public Health? How many people do you have working on it?
De Villa: I know that people talk about it as contact tracing, but it is a really big endeavour, and it's really important. And it involves talking to anybody who gets a COVID-19 diagnosis going back and looking at two weeks -- an entire history of the two weeks prior to when they got symptoms, understanding everything they did so that one, we can figure out where did they get their infection and two, to who might they have spread that infection during the period of infectiousness when they did realize that they had COVID-19. It's a pretty involved piece of work. At the very beginning of COVID-19, we had about 60 people working on this. We now have over 550 people because it is a huge endeavour. It is a lot of work, and it's very time consuming, but it is incredibly important.
CP24: We also learned about hundreds of unreported cases. How concerned were you to hear about this?
De Villa: Well, it's always concerning to hear about cases that we should have heard about earlier. But we know that we know about them now. What you do is you see the problem, and you solve it. So, we worked with a number of other partners. We had help from other jurisdictions, which we're very grateful for to address those cases in a timely fashion as possible. We know that these situations will arise from time to time. I understand that the responsible parties have looked into the circumstances are putting fixes into place to prevent that from happening again. But from our perspective at public health, you see the problem, and you solve it.
CP24: What are we going to do once everybody can go back to work. Those of us that work in those great big financial towers downtown on the 22nd floor, how are we going to manage to get up to our building and still maintain social distancing? Are we going to have to stagger our return to work?
De Villa: Well, I think that there are a number of things that are being looked at in order to address this new reality. First and foremost, for many people who work in that financial sector in those big buildings downtown, many of them have been working remotely from home. And for those where that can continue, people are being encouraged to keep doing that. That's how we can maintain physical distancing, which continues to be the foundation of prevention for us as a city and in the indeed throughout the rest of the province. Working from home is one of those things that can be done.
Where working from home isn't doable, then trying to create circumstances that allow for that physical distancing will be very important. Staggered work times is an excellent way to achieve that. If people can flex their times, arrive at different times, so that elevators aren't all trying to be used at the same time and then having physically distanced workstations and the like will be the kinds of things that will help reduce spread.
CP24: Mayor John Tory asked employers last week to allow their employees to continue working remotely until at least September. How far ahead could you see this going? Are we looking to Christmas time maybe or beyond?
De Villa: It'll depend on what we see and how much COVID-19 activity occurs within our community. But we have heard from some employers that they can continue running their businesses with a significant proportion of their workforce being at home and working from home. I think this is a really incredible contribution to the efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. And I would encourage other employers where that's possible to join in.
CP24: What provisions will be made for available washroom facilities during the times that food trucks are open? If washrooms will be open, will there be frequent cleaning of these facilities?
De Villa: With the nice weather, there is a limited season where those businesses can operate. It's good that we can provide that service and those food venues for people, especially because they are outdoors. And again, COVID-19 transmission risk is much lower in the outdoor setting when it comes to washrooms. I know that a number of washrooms are opening over time in our recreation facilities and parks throughout the city. They are opening with guidance from public health in terms of how best to clean them. There is a cleaning schedule, and they're all being activated over time. Addressing biological functions, what's really good about having these washroom facilities available is that it provides people, a place to wash their hands. And again, you know, other than physical distancing, which is still important to maintain, regular hand washing, especially before you eat is, is one of the best ways you can protect yourself.
CP24: Dr. de Villa, you spoke yesterday about how difficult it is to remember where someone has been in two weeks. Since many of us have little to do these days, would it not make sense to advise people to write down where they have been and who with daily to save time?
De Villa: I think that's a great idea for those who are motivated and prepared to do that. I think it would be great to keep a bit of a diary. From what I can understand from a mental health perspective, it is not a bad idea to reflect on your day and think about what you did as well. Journaling and doing that kind of thing actually has a lot of strong proponents. So, for people who are willing to do that would certainly help. But not all of us are good at keeping a diary or interested. But for those who are, we're not going to say no.
CP24: Can someone get COVID-19 from someone who has tested positive but is now recovered and is negative?
De Villa: We understand that if you have recovered, you should not be infectious anymore. That being said, we do not know what kind of immunity you have to COVID-19 to further infection once you have recovered. Because it's a new virus, we haven't spent a lot of time with it, so we don't have all the answers. But if it is shortly after somebody has recovered from an infection, we don't expect that that person should be then spreading on to somebody else if they have recovered.
CP24: If you think you've been exposed to someone with COVID-19, would you say it's from the moment you get a fever or experience one of the symptoms to get tested? Or do you wait a couple of days to be sure, so you don't get a false negative?
De Villa: This is another one of those things that we're still learning quite a bit about. And I've had a number of conversations with people about this. We don't know definitively when the best time is. I think what we're trying to do here is to make sure you're in a position. If you think you may have a COVID-19 infection because you were exposed and now have symptoms, we do want you to get tested. It's helpful to understand, do you actually have COVID-19? I've heard a little bit about, if you get symptoms, go and get tested. Others have said wait for a day or two but limit your exposure really isolate so that you're not then spreading on. A day or two after symptom onset might be a better time to get a more definitive test and to avoid that potential for a false negative. I don't know that we have a perfect answer. My thinking is if you have symptoms and you have reason to believe, certainly that you were exposed to COVID-19 get a test. When you have the symptoms, if it's a day or two after that's okay, too, but please limit your exposure to others.
CP24: My wife and I are both seniors. My wife has been quarantined with our daughter and her two grandchildren. I have been self-isolating. No one has any symptoms. My wife is going to the cottage by herself and self-isolating for two to three weeks. Will it be safe for her to come home after that? I miss her. Please advise us as I've been trying to get an answer to our situation.
De Villa: Let's first thank the viewer for cooperating and following public health advice. I think that's really important. We know that the progress we've made here in the city is because of what everybody in the city, people like the viewer, have done. We've seen bad situations and other jurisdictions -- New York, Italy. Thankfully we did not encounter that. And it's because of what people like the viewer have done.
For now, though, the advice is still to maintain separate household bubbles. If you're not actually part of the household bubble, we're asking that people stay separated for now. As the situation improves, we're hoping that we should be able to start to see some mixing, as we have seen in other jurisdictions -- two or three households getting together. Hopefully, we'll be there soon. We'll get there faster. The more people stick to the advice practice, good hand hygiene, washing the hands, staying home if you're sick and physical distance.
CP24: Any tips for short term rentals and precautions people should take?
De Villa: I think it depends on what the circumstances are. Making sure that things are well washed, but I'm going to go back to the fundamental advice, wash your hands, stay home. If you're sick, physical distance and do some extra cleaning, I think those are the best rules.
This interview has been edited.