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

Last Updated Aug 9, 2020 at 2:07 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 Thursday, July 23 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: With schools reopening, do you think that children will become super spreaders of COVID-19 like they are for the flu?
A: Going back to school is not going to look like it did in March.

The evidence for kids, I think it’s inconclusive by my estimation. We know that in kids COVID may not be like influenza – we just don’t have the full evidence on that. We haven’t had enough kids in school, I think to really fully understand that.

There’s no question though, that kids can still get sick. The older you are as a child the more sick you could potentially get. We know adults get more sick than younger children.

So when we open schools we need to be able to open them up in a way that we can prevent the spread of COVID, and I think that that’s the bottom line here.

We talked to our school boards in Toronto, they’re developing their proposals and it’s talking about using public health measures to have school open, but while reducing the spread of the virus. For example, measures like being in smaller of students so your risk of spreading it across the school will be less, frequent handwashing, frequent cleaning of surfaces.

Another big thing is screening. Making sure that if your child actually develops a cold, that morning you would probably not send them to school. But if they showed up the door and they said, yes, I have a runny nose today, they should not be admitted to school and they would have to go home.

So then the question is how long do they need to stay home? What we would recommend is actually that they get tested. We need to test children to really understand how many kids are actually really being infected.

If you’ve actually looked at patients around the world, even if you look at places like Florida, where there have been many children who have been tested, testing proportions are so much smaller in children than they are in adults.

So I think if a child is symptomatic, get them tested. If it’s negative and the symptoms go away, then 24 hours after their symptoms get better and they test negative, they could go back to school.

If they have a runny nose for other reasons like an allergy, that us something that could be excluded and they wouldn’t have to stay home for that.

So these are some of the things that we’re trying to work through to be prepared for school, to be able to provide guidance to school boards and also to parents.

We know that just opening school doors and letting kids in just so that they can get an education is not the right way to do it because definitely you’re going to get spread in Toronto. We still continue to have a dozen or more cases reported every day. And so we know that we have community transmission.

Without putting in public health measures in schools, we will see that the virus will spread in those environments. I just want to assure you that we are all working on providing guidance for school boards. They’ve actually taken our guidance to come up with really great proposals to mitigate the spread in school.

Q: My mom is 86 years old and is planning to return to Canada from Pakistan where she had been delayed because of COVID-19. In terms of quarantine, can she stay in my condo or will she have to stay somewhere else for 14 days?
A: If you have a safe space for her to self-isolate, ideally with a separate room and separate bathroom, then absolutely have her stay with you. And when she needs to go into a common area, she can wear a mask and you can wear a mask.

But we would recommended that you self-isolate in a private residence with the private room and bathroom, if possible.

Q: Considering that restaurants are open, is it safe to use restaurant utensils, plates and glasses since COVID-19 can stay on surfaces?
A: We have protocols in place for restaurants to use so that the cutlery and the dishware is cleaned according to the recommendations and the guidelines — that’s actually in regulation.

We’re recommending for utensils that be wrapped up in a napkin so that they cannot inadvertently be touched by someone. So that’s certainly something that I would recommend in a restaurant.

The glasses themselves – eating or drinking – we haven’t had any evidence that COVID can spread in that way.

Q: What are some of the more mild symptoms that you would connect with COVID-19?
A: Some people just get a scratchy throat, some people might just feel a bit of a sore throat, a bit of a runny nose, just not feeling well, a headache with a mild fever.

The symptoms can sometimes be quite mild – one that people might not actually identify is losing the sense of taste or smell. If all of a sudden you’re finding you can’t taste your food as well or why can I not smell those roses for example, that actually may be a sign of COVID and might be an invitation that you should get tested.

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