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Coronavirus public health Q&A with Dr. Vinita Dubey (May 20)

Last Updated May 24, 2020 at 1:36 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, May 20, 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 people can transmit the virus even when they’re not showing symptoms, why don’t we test everyone, across the board to find out who is infected?
A: From last week to this week, we have really great news that now the testing criteria have opened up in the province. So anyone who has symptoms, even if they’re mild symptoms but they’re new, then they can actually go for a test.

Testing people who has no symptoms might help us to find a few people who are asymptomatic. But generally when you’re asymptomatic, 48 hours after being asymptomatic, if you test positive, you’re going to get symptoms anyways.

The proportion of people who are truly asymptomatic and spreading in the population is actually not as high as as we think it is. It’s something that we’re testing.

We’ve actually tested most people in long-term care homes now and we found a very, very small proportion who tested positive were asymptomatic. By and large, most people who test positive have symptoms or if they’re asymptomatic and they’re tested, they have symptoms 48 hours later.

The other thing is — you could test negative today, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t have the virus that’s incubating within you. And so two days later if you get symptoms and we test you, then you could be positive.

And so that negative test is only good on the day that it is done. If you test negative today and you get results three days from now, it does not guarantee that you’re negative three days from now.

There might be certain circumstances where we might test people who don’t have symptoms yet — for example, in a childcare setting or in a long-term care setting. But to go to every single house, every single person in Ontario and to test them right now is not part of the strategy.

Q: The number of cases in Ontario now seem to be leveling off but have still not dropped below 300 a day. What does this tell us about the spread of the virus? Are we actually containing it?
A: It means that we still have virus that’s spreading in our community. We’re balancing putting measures in place and relaxing measures while we’re trying to reduce the spread of this infection.

So one of the key features that we need is to be able to have good public health measures when we identify a case to be able to then isolate that person and to be able to isolate their contacts. So having more testing is going to be helpful — Ontario is now allowing anyone with even mild symptoms to get tested.

We actually will probably see that the cases will increase because now we’re going to be testing more, but it means we’re going to be able to find people sooner to put the individuals that they’ve had close contact with in isolation so that we can help prevent the spread.

But ultimately what it means is that we still have virus spread and so we still need every single person to do their part to help prevent the virus from spreading in our community.

Q: There have been lots of posts on social media talking about how masks actually might be more detrimental — that they limit oxygen flow and can result in things like brain damage and death. What is your opinion on that?
A: Masks are really good to keep your germs to yourself. That’s why we’re strongly recommending them.

But we recognize that there are some people who cannot wear a mask because of medical reasons, perhaps a respiratory condition where wearing a mask makes it difficult for you to breathe. In that case, you should not use a mask. Likewise, children, two years of age or under should not be using a mask because again, they may find it difficult to breathe with a mask in general.

If you can’t put a mask on properly or take it off or if you find it difficult to breathe with a mask, then you should not be using a mask.

If you feel like you’re finding it difficult to catch your breath or to take a breath with a mask, then it probably means that you cannot tolerate that mask. Sometimes changing the mask or finding one that fits you better might be appropriate as well.

But wearing a mask in general, if you can wear it properly, you can still actually get good oxygen flow to your body.

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