Canada must balance its response to COVID-19

Canada must balance its response to COVID-19

Editor:

Open letter to the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada, Honourable Dwight Ball, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Honourable Caroline Cochrane, Premier of the Northwest Territories, Honourable Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, Honourable Blaine Higgs, Premier of New Brunswick, Honourable John Horgan, Premier of British Columbia, Honourable Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta, Honourable Dennis King, Premier of Prince Edward Island, Honourable François Legault, Premier of Québec, Honourable Stephen McNeil, Premier of Nova Scotia, Honourable Scott Moe, Premier of Saskatchewan, Honourable Brian Pallister, Premier of Manitoba, Honourable Joe Savikataaq, Premier of Nunavut, Honourable Sandy Silver, Premier of Yukon

RE: Dealing with COVID-19: A Balanced Response

The undersigned represent current and past leaders in public health, health care systems and academia. We are writing to you to with our thoughts regarding a balanced approach to dealing with COVID-19. We strongly believe that population health and equity are important considerations that must be applied to future decisions regarding pandemic management.

The current approach to dealing with COVID-19 carries significant risks to overall population health and threatens to increase inequities across the country. Aiming to prevent or contain every case of COVID-19 is simply no longer sustainable at this stage in the pandemic. We need to accept that COVID-19 will be with us for some time and to find ways to deal with it.

The current and proposed measures for reopening will continue to disproportionately impact lower income groups, Black and other racialized groups, recent immigrants to Canada, Indigenous peoples and other populations. And it risks significantly harming our children, particularly the very young, by affecting their development, with life-long consequences in terms of education, skills development, income and overall health.

Canada must work to minimize the impact of COVID-19 by using measures that are practical, effective and compatible with our values and sense of social justice. We need to focus on preventing deaths and serious illness by protecting the vulnerable while enabling society to function and thrive.

Elimination of COVID-19 is not a practical objective for Canada until we have a vaccine. While there is hope for a vaccine to be developed soon, we must be realistic about the time it will actually take to develop and evaluate it and then deliver an immunization campaign covering the entire population. We cannot sustain universal control measures indefinitely.

We need to accept that there will be cases and outbreaks of COVID-19. We need localized control measures that are risk-based. We should consistently reassess quarantine and isolation periods, recommendations for physical distancing and non-medical masks, and travel restrictions based on current best evidence and levels of risk.

At the same time we must improve infection prevention and control in long-term care and congregate living settings. We should provide support for people living in the community who need to or choose to isolate when the disease is active, as well as those who have been adversely affected by COVID-19, or the consequences of the public health measures.

Canadians have developed a fear of COVID-19. Going forward, they have to be supported in understanding their true level of risk, and learning how to deal with this disease, while getting on with their lives – back to work, back to school, and back to healthy lives and vibrant, active communities across this country.

We acknowledge the heroic work that has been done in recent months by many across all levels of government and the public and private sector, and the sacrifices that Canadians have made to get to this stage. As we look forward, Canada must balance its response to COVID-19.

Sincerely yours,

Robert BellFormer Deputy Minister of Health, Province of Ontario, Former President and CEO, University Health Network, Toronto

David Butler-JonesCanada’s first Chief Public Health Officer and former Deputy Minister for the Public Health Agency of Canada

Jean ClintonClinical Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University

Tom Closson – Former President and CEO, University Health Network, Toronto Former President and CEO, Capital Health Region, British Columbia

Janet Davidson – Former Deputy Minister, Alberta Health, Former CEO, Trillium Health Centre

Martha Fulford – MA, MD, FRCPC, Infectious Diseases Specialist Associate Professor, McMaster University

Vivek Goel – Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto,Former President, Public Health Ontario

Joel Kettner – Former Chief Public Health Officer, Province of Manitoba

Onye Nnorom – President, Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario,Associate Program Director, Public Health and Preventive Medicine Residency Program

Dalla Lana – School of Public Health, University of Toronto

Brian Postl -Dean, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences and Vice- Provost, Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Former President, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority

Neil Rau – Infectious Disease Specialist and Medical Microbiologist,Assistant Professor, University of Toronto

Richard Reznick, Professor of Surgery and Dean Emeritus, Faculty of Health Sciences, Queen’s University

Susan Richardson – Professor Emerita, University of Toronto, Richard Schabas, Former Chief Medical Officer of Health, Province of Ontario, Former Chief of Medical Staff, York Central Hospital

Gregory Taylor – Former Chief Public Health Officer of Canada

David Walker – Former Dean of Health Sciences, Queens University Chair, Ontario’s Expert Panel on SARS, 2003

Catharine Whiteside – Executive Director, Diabetes Action Canada – CIHR SPOR Network, Emerita Professor and Former Dean of Medicine, University of Toronto

Trevor Young – Professor of Psychiatry, Dean, Faculty of Medicine and Vice Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions University of Toronto

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The regional jobs picture has improved. (Innovate Impact Media/Creative Commons photo)
Northwest unemployment rate dips again

Is now second lowest of any region in B.C.

Cedar Valley Lodge, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers at the LNG Canada Project site in Kitimat. The most recent outbreak among workers at the project site was just declared over. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Second COVID-19 outbreak at LNG Canada Project site declared over

The outbreak was first declared on Dec. 16, 2020

The first of two massive turbines headed from Prince Rupert for the Site C Dam near Fort St. John on Jan 10. (Photo: Supplied by Tasha McKenzie)
Massive turbines begin trek across Northwestern B.C.

Turbines headed from Prince Rupert to Site C Dam to cause traffic delays week of Jan. 10 to 14

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Most Read