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Coronavirus public health Q&A with Dr. Vinita Dubey (July 8)

Last Updated Jul 16, 2020 at 1:07 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 your COVID-19 related questions in a LIVE video interview on Wednesday, July 8, at 12:30 p.m. 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: The World Health Organization says that COVID-19 may be airborne now. What is the latest that you are hearing about this?
A: I still think that — measles and chicken pox are airborne, where if you were in the same room as someone who had those even two hours after they left, you could get those viruses.

I’m not sure that COVID-19 is that airborne — that it lingers in the air for two hours afterwards — but we do know that it is spread for sure, by droplets. And some of those smaller droplets can linger in the air for longer.

We know that the larger droplets, as they get in the air, gravity pulls them down. But the smaller droplets might cause them to linger for a bit longer, making them “in the air.” It’s a different type of “airborne” in that sense than chicken pox.

We do know that indoor settings are higher risk – and why are they higher risk? Well, we know that there’s less ventilation, there’s less circulation of air. We know that your’re at closer quarters, maybe more crowded. And so that may be contributing to this virus.

With this virus, we are six to seven months into knowing about it. So we are finding out new things about it. And the best thing to do is when we find out something and it seems to be true, we will adjust ourselves and our recommendations.

Q: Do you think a second wave is inevitable after all of the reopenings and people interacting with each other all summer long?
A: We are certainly planning for a second wave. We know with pandemics, you do have a first wave and then you get a second wave.

We’ve also seen in other parts of the world where a second wave, or not even a complete first-wave has occurred, and a second wave has started. So that is something that has occurred and is occurring with pandemics. If we didn’t have a second wave, we would be happy, but we certainly are anticipating one and are planning for one,

We do have it under control in Toronto right now and that’s really good news. But we’re definitely not out of the woods. You can just look south and see that when you reopen things and if you don’t have things under control, the virus comes back and it comes back affecting a lot of people.

Q: Given that the entire population has no natural antibodies to fight the novel coronavirus, why are there more stringent precautions needed for those who have suppressed immune systems?
A: The reason why, if you have a suppressed immune system, we’re asking you to take extra precautions is because if you get COVID, you could get a more serious illness and that you’re more at risk. You’re probably just as likely to get it as the other person, but if you get it, you could get a more serious illness and that’s really what we want to be able to prevent.

It could be that if your immune system is really bad, you’re more likely to get it compared to someone else who could fight it off — that could also play into it. But by and large, we want to actually be able to prevent that severe illness.

Q: Is losing your sense of taste and smell a symptom of COVID-19?
A: Yes. If you have loss of taste or smell, that may be your only symptom that you have COVID and it’s actually on our regular symptom checklist that’s tied to this infection.

So if you’ve lost taste or smell, now in this age, probably you have, or had COVID and should get tested. There’s not a lot of things that cause that. Whereas if you have a runny nose – it could be lots of other things that are causing that – but the loss of taste and smell is pretty specific to this virus.

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