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Coronavirus public health Q&A with Dr. Vinita Dubey (May 6)

Last Updated May 24, 2020 at 1:35 pm EDT

We know you have questions about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and we’re are working to get you the answers, straight from the most trusted sources.

Toronto’s Associate Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vinita Dubey, answered your COVID-19 related questions in a live video interview on Wednesday on our Facebook page.

Here are a few questions Dr. Dubey addressed:

(Questions were moderated and have been edited for grammar, punctuation and clarity)

Q: If you are an essential worker who is still working, is it ok to go home to family or should you isolate yourself from family members?
A: It’s a good question. Some of it depends on the kind of work you do and if there are concerns where you work that you might be picking up the virus. You might want to consider taking preventative measures at work so that you don’t feel afraid when you come home.

There are certainly people who live in homes that have vulnerable people, they live with people who are either very old or who might be undergoing chemotherapy and they want to take particular precautions because if they get the virus, they don’t want to spread it to those vulnerable people. So I think it would depend on your individual circumstance.

We do know that if you’re infected with the virus, you can actually be contagious two days before you even have symptoms. So I think the best advice I could give you is to try and prevent getting the virus.

If you’re an essential worker — thank you for being an essential worker — but try and maintain that physical distance. If you work in a hospital, make sure that you’re wearing your PPE correctly, make sure that you’re washing your hands so that you’re less likely to bring anything home with you.

Q: Is it safe to eat takeout food is it safe to eat and do we need to reheat the food when we bring it home? If so, is reheating in a microwave good enough?
A: I want to reassure you that, to date, we don’t have any cases of this virus that have been recorded from eating food.

We know that the virus, it is not spread through eating food or through food packaging. It’s spread through respiratory droplets, through contaminated surfaces — if you touch them with your hands and then you touch your eyes or nose, that’s how you could get the virus.

So what I would say is absolutely you can eat takeout. When you bring the takeout home, make sure you reheat it. Reheating food can actually be good to kill viruses and other germs. You can reheat in a microwave if you’re sure that you could get the right temperature or you could reheat it through other ways.

With the containers themselves, you want to make sure that you clean any surfaces after you’ve placed the containers on them and make sure that you wash your hands after handling them.

Q: We keep hearing the phrase “community spread”, with officials saying that number has to go lower before we can reopen. But do the city and the province have a grasp on what “communities” are still spreading the virus? Are these people who are disobeying social distancing laws? Does it include healthcare workers who are accidentally bringing the virus home? Or are people contracting the virus by visiting grocery stores or other essential services?
A: We’ve had over 6,000 cases in Toronto and so we’ve actually looked at this a bit further.

We know that actually half of our cases are related to an institution like a long-term care home or retirement home – wither an outbreak in those settings or visitors who have gone to those settings or staff who have gotten it from those settings. So that makes up half of our cases.

Another 25 per cent or a quarter of cases come from people who have had close contact — either living in a household with someone who had the infection or those who have close contact from a workplace or something similar. About 7 per cent of our cases have come from travel or are travel related. And then the remainder — less than 20% of our cases — we’re calling them possibly community spread.

Some of them – it’s a data issue. We don’t actually have an input for cause. We don’t know if it means that we didn’t ask the person or we didn’t input it correctly. And some of them we can’t quite pinpoint where they got the virus. So that’s the number that we’re dealing with and that’s the number that we want to go down.

But we know by and large that people are getting the virus from that close contact and having that close contact for 15 minutes or longer.

Q: What will restaurants and bars be like if they are able to open, but social distancing measures are still in place? How will businesses like that be able to open while still adhering to the restrictions?
A: I can tell you that different places around the world have done this differently.

So we’ve seen in places like Asia where they’ve put plexiglass between tables so that you can’t spread it to someone else. We’ve seen in places like Alaska where they only allow restaurants to have 25 per cent occupancy and you can only go there with your household members. We’ve seen other places say you can have 50 per cent occupancy, but you have to try and physically distance as much as possible and the servers for example, have to wear a mask.

So there have been a lot of different places doing a lot of different things and I want you to know that this is something that we’re actually looking into in Toronto and also for Ontario, to come up with guidance for what it will look like as we move forward.

Watch the full interview with web writer Dilshad Burman in conversation with Dr. Vinita Dubey in the video above.

Scroll through the questions submitted to this session below.

Note: Questions were moderated before appearing in the chat window.