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Coronavirus public health Q&A with Dr. Vinita Dubey (June 23)

Last Updated Oct 13, 2020 at 3:01 pm EST

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

Toronto’s Associate Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vinita Dubey, answered all your COVID-19 related questions in a LIVE video interview on Tuesday, June 23, on our Facebook page as well as here on our website.

Here are a few questions Dr. Dubey addressed:

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

Q: Because masks are so strongly recommended, why aren’t they mandatory?
A: We are certainly looking into this to see how to make it mandatory. It’s not as easy as just saying that it’s mandatory because if you make it mandatory, how are you going to enforce it? And what are the laws that can make something mandatory and what are the repercussions?

There are a lot of legislative tools that we have, so which ones do we use? There are public health tools, there’s bylaws, there’s the Emergency Act that’s provincial. So we’re looking into all the different types of legal tools there are to be able to make masks mandatory. Right now it is a strong recommendation and I think that that’s really important.

In terms of enforcement, most of the enforcement in places where they’ve had mandatory masks has actually been education. So even the TTC, while the TTC has made masks mandatory, if you’re not wearing a mask, they will be educating you that you need to actually wear a mask.

Park of making masks mandatory is you actually have to be able to provide masks. So you have to make sure that those people who might not be able to afford a mask actually have access to a mask. So there’s a lot of things that, that need to be put in place as well.

What we do know though, is that certain businesses can have their own policies for customers and their staff to require masks. We’ve seen the TTC go ahead and make masks mandatory as well. And we have certainly given it a strong recommendation.

We are continuing to look into this further. And I think the most important thing though, is that we all do what we can.

Q: Currently people arriving from overseas must quarantine for 14 days, but can they simply go around that by taking a test? And if they’re found negative, would they still need to follow those 14 day quarantine orders?
A: You still need to stay in quarantine for 14 days if you travel, unless you have one of the exemptions.

If you arrive in Canada, say today, and you got a test two days from now, and the test was negative — all it means is that on that day, you don’t have COVID. But there’s still another 12 more days and you could develop symptoms or could get COVID and could put others at risk. And that’s why the quarantine is for the full 14 days, regardless of testing.

Q: What exactly is contract tracing and how does it work?
A: Contact tracing means you want to find out where did the person get the infection and who could they have spread it to? And when you’re trying to figure out who they could spread it to, those are the contacts.

But we divide contacts into high, medium, and low risk. And so if someone in the grocery store that would be considered a low risk contact, that we wouldn’t necessarily get in touch with you, because we know that COVID is spreading, you need to take precautions.

A medium risk contact is someone in your workplace. You work with them, they work down the hall, but you have not had contact with them for more than 15 minutes. And so the fact that they were in your work environment means you could have been exposed, but the risk is not high. So we asked you then to self-monitor— keep a close eye on your symptoms. If you get symptoms, stay home and get tested.

But if in that work environment, you had someone who you worked with very closely, there were times when you didn’t keep that six-feet distance, that would be considered a high risk contact and you are asked to self isolate. People you live with are in that situation as well.

If you’ve been determined to be a high-risk contact, you need to isolate from the people in your household. However, they are not considered high-risk because they never had contact with that person you were working with who has COVID-19. They only have contact with you and so they are a contact of a contact.

So your household members need to stay away from you. But if you develop COVID, they become high risk contacts at that point.

It’s a risk-based approach based on how much contact you’ve had with the person who was contagious.

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