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Coronavirus public health Q&A with Dr. Vinita Dubey (Sep. 30)

Last Updated Oct 12, 2020 at 5:48 pm EDT

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 Wednesday 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: What should we expect for wave two that is different than when this virus first got here back in March?
A: We’ve actually learned a lot getting into wave two compared to wave one. You’ll remember, it was March and we actually just learned about the virus at the end of December. We had our first case in January.

But now we’ve actually gone through it and we actually know what public health measures work. We know that if we keep people at home, actually we can slow the spread of the virus. But we don’t want to keep people at home unnecessarily. So things like physical distancing, wearing a mask, all of those things that we’ve talked about, we know work. So I think that’s what’s going to help us getting into the second wave.

We also have a better sense of how to keep COVID out of long term care homes, how to protect our most vulnerable. That’s probably one of the most important things that we can do in wave two. Getting flu vaccinated is going to be one of those things as well.

I think there’s no question that we’re seeing the rise in cases and that we’re seeing 55 per cent of our cases in the last month in Toronto have been in those aged 20 to 39. And we know that much of it is related to not following the precautions completely. So following the precautions is definitely something that we need to do. We need to encourage each other to wear a mask, to keep that distance so that we can be able to get further in the second wave compared to the first.

Q: If we get the COVID vaccine, which might be 60 to 70 per cent effective, does that mean that we can still get COVID, but maybe not as severe a reaction?
A: We don’t know how effective a COVID vaccine is going to be. Phase three trials are currently ongoing. This is where they’re studying the vaccine in humans. And we don’t know how well it will work — maybe it will be 90% effective. It may be similar to the flu vaccine — 50 per cent effective. We actually don’t know.

But even if you had a vaccine that was like the flu vaccine, it wouldn’t give you a hundred percent protection. And so we would still have to maintain precautions sometimes. Even with vaccines, the virus can give you a milder form of the illness or that much less severe to keep you out of hospital, keep you from dying from the illness. And so that’s certainly something to watch for it and could certainly be the case.

Q: If we know that there are six other coronaviruses in existence, how does the test differentiate from other coronaviruses?
A: It’s actually what we call a molecular test — so it actually looks at a piece of the gene in this particular virus that causes COVID-19 and that’s not present in the other coronaviruses. So that’s the test that we’re using.

There are certainly other tests out there that may cross react with other coronaviruses, for example, but that’s not the test that we’re using. That’s how we can be confident that we’re actually catching and getting the results for SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19.

Q: In your opinion, is hydroxychloroquine effective in fighting COVID-19?
A: Hydroxychloroquine as a drug is not recommended for COVID. That has come out from many medical bodies – to say that it is not a recommended treatment.

If someone has severe COVID, there is actually an anti-viral drug that has been approved in Canada that can be used. So there are certainly licensed drugs or treatments that can be used as for people who have very sick illness. But hydroxychloroquine is not recommended for treatment of this virus in Canada.

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