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

Last Updated Oct 12, 2020 at 6:35 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 Tuesday, Sept. 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: Can you give your thoughts on kids wearing their masks on lanyards? Is it a transmission risk for COVID-19?
A: So there are a couple of things related to lanyards. One is that you want to make sure that the lanyard itself doesn’t get contaminated, which it will.

So if you’re going to use a mask with a lanyard, the same way that you wash your masks and launder them every day, you would have to do the same for the lanyard — that’s the biggest infection control risk that you’ll have to consider. The other thing about a lanyard that you have to consider is, just like when we wear lanyards for our name tags, that it has a quick release because it could be a choking hazard.

Q: Is it safe to send young children to school (six-year-olds) if living in a multi-generational household with grandparents? What extra precautions can one take as a family?
A: So deciding to send your six-year-old to school — one of the considerations you will very legitimately have to weigh if you have a multigenerational home with older adults living there is that there is a higher risk for them, there’s no question about that because they’re actually sharing the home with you.

It’s also going to be very difficult for you to keep physical distance between the six-year-old and the grandparents.

When it comes to added precautions — as the children go to school, at least for the first few weeks while we try and sort through how much infection is actually occurring in schools, you may want to keep your children, as much as you can, six-feet away from the grandparents. Wearing masks at home is another consideration.

Some of that may be possible or may not be. And so one of the other considerations is whether online schooling is a choice and something that you would also consider in this circumstance.

Q: If you were making the choice, is it better to do virtual school first and see how the experience goes for the first month or go back to school physically and then see how the experience goes and vice versa?
A: I think that decision is extremely personal. If you have a child who will not do well at home and needs to go to school to learn for that social interaction or has really suffered maybe for mental health reasons from being at home, in that case going to school, even though there may be more of a risk for COVID, might actually be lower risk and you would take that risk because of the characteristics of that person.

It’s also related to what’s going on in your home. Do you have grandparents living with you? Are there other considerations? It’s a very individual decision. I even say the decisions that I have to make for my own children is not something that you can use for yourself. You’re going to have to make your own decisions.

What I would say though is that there is no perfect decision. I think you just have to make a decision and go with it. There may be a time where in-person learning might have to switch to online learning because of the circumstances. And we’ll have to be flexible about that.

We also know that for virtual learning, the school boards do have entry points when you can switch to two in person learning. So it’s not like the decision you make is going to be till the end of June. But right now I would say, make the decision that is the right decision for you, for now as best you can and then see how it goes.

Q: What does the government mean when they say they will aggressively test high school students for asymptomatic COVID cases? Are they going to be giving regular nasal swabs to my child? Do they need my permission first and what happens if I say no?
A: These are good questions. We too have questions on how this is going to work.

What we understand is this is what we call “surveillance testing,” — it means testing people, not because you think that they have COVID, but just to get an understanding how many people could be asymptomatic and have the illness.

In high schools, they will be coming to do the tests and most high school students will be able to provide informed consent on their own. They would be able to understand the reason for the test to be able to consent to the test and do it. There is no age of consent in Ontario. And so usually around 14 you’re able to understand the benefits and risks and make a decision.

I would have that conversation with your child, if you don’t want your child tested, to make it clear to your child why you don’t want them tested so they can provide that informed consent.

I don’t know what the model is going to look like in high schools but the idea is to find out how many people are testing positive, what is the asymptomatic rate, so that we can, first of all, get on top of it to put control measures in place, but also to understand how much COVID is in the community.

Whether they’ll actually step foot in the high school, or whether they’ll have a mobile testing unit outside the high school is unclear, but the goal is to test high school students more often with this surveillance type testing.

It doesn’t mean that it’s the same students who will be tested all the time. It could be that we’re seeing a certain neighbourhood in the city that has higher rates of COVID and a few cases related to a school. It may then be decided that those high schools are ones that are worth doing this testing on — those kinds of strategies may be put in place.

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