Can We Trust Toronto Public Health For Straight Information About Coronavirus?

We are living in scary and dangerous times. There’s no doubt that the number of people carrying the coronavirus in Toronto and Ontario will increase. Hopefully the increase will then plateau and trail off. However with outbreaks and state of emergencies in places like California and New York State, it’s important that a large cosmopolitan province like Ontario treads carefully and we get reliable information that will help keep us safe.

Questions: Many Questions and Getting the Facts Straight is Tough

As citizens of Toronto can we go about our normal business or should we exercise caution? Should we refrain from non-essential activities? Should we keep our kids home from school? And there are bigger questions – can we trust the Toronto Public Health Office?

This post contains excerpts from councillor Matlow’s letter to the public via email released the afternoon of Monday March 9.

Councillor Josh Matlow says he was exposed to the coronavirus and will self-isolate but also says no one is in danger from having had contact with him including his family. Ah, yes perfect logic! That makes us feel better councillor!

In his “Statement Regarding Self-Isolation due to Contact with Confirmed COVID – 19 Case” he outlines that he came into contact last Thursday March 5th (4 days ago) “with an individual who has tested positive for COVID – 19 (Novel Coronavirus) upon their return from a conference in Washington, DC.”

This is the part that constitutes misinformation. The councillor writes:

“It is very important to note that I have been informed by Dr. de Villa that because I am asymptomatic, no one, including my family, is at an elevated risk of having contracted the virus due to contact with me. The Medical Officer of Health, and her excellent team, have provided me with prompt, informative advice, as they have to all Toronto residents since the virus was discovered. It is important that everyone seek information regarding COVID – 19 from credible sources, such as Toronto Public Health, and follow expert advice.”

Problems with Councillor Matlow’s Statement

Being “asymptomatic” does not mean you haven’t exposed anyone to the virus, because it’s still possible you caught it. And the councillor spent numerous days interacting with his family. Close contact at home is the number one way the virus spreads. There’s a lot of bad information out there and Marlow’s spreading of misinformation doesn’t help.

Let’s turn from Matlow to real experts:

From a New York Times article from February 20:

“Even asymptomatic people who are infected may be able to spread the virus. But people without symptoms are rarely tested.”

Can an asymptomatic person carrying the virus transmit it to others?

“I don’t think there’s any question that someone who is without symptoms and carrying the virus can transmit the virus to somebody else,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Sandra Ciesek, of the Institute of Medical Virology at University Hospital Frankfurt, said the problem was that “normally, you don’t screen asymptomatic healthy people for the virus because it’s too expensive.” 

More or less the issue is that we are not testing people who have been exposed if they look healthy. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t been infected. It is unlikely that councillor Matlow was infected by an acquaintance, but if he was infected it is quite possible he could have already passed the virus to co-workers or family or anyone he has been in close contact with. That much is inarguable.

So what should we think? Is the Medical Officer of Health of Toronto offering bad advice? Is Toronto council and other governments looking out for us? Who can we trust for sensible and truthful information?

Be skeptical and make informed decisions based on facts. Share this with your friends!

– Tdot Blog Staff

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