Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, April 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Learning to live with COVID-19 requires permanent fixes to vulnerable settings: Tam

Immunity task force is trying to figure out how to return to normal life

Canada’s chief public health officer warned Monday there is still a lot we don’t know about the virus that causes COVID-19, but said stopping this pandemic or preventing a future one will require more than just physical distancing and handwashing.

Dr. Theresa Tam said we simply do not know yet whether someone who has had COVID-19 will be immune from getting it again, or how long that immunity will last. The World Health Organization warned last week it is premature to give the all-clear for resuming normal activities to people who have recovered from COVID-19, because there is some evidence that some patients have contracted the novel coronavirus a second time.

READ MORE: Canada’s re-opening will be ‘guided by science’, normal life still a long way off

Tam said Monday these are critical questions the immunity task force she is part of seek to answer as Canada tries to make critical decisions about how to lift the extreme restrictions on public gatherings without throwing the door wide open for the virus to spread rapidly amongst the population.

But Tam said what she does know is that to stop COVID-19, and to prepare better for the next wave of this or another global virus, Canada has got to do something immediately to address the “social, cultural and economic” conditions she said contributed to allowing COVID-19 to disproportionately affect vulnerable populations and essential workers.

“The bad bugs are not going away so if we are to end the tragedy of increased disease and death rates in vulnerable populations we need to make things right, right now,” Tam said during her regular briefing in Ottawa.

“This is not just someone else’s problem or someone else’s sorrow. Inequities touch us all,”she said. ”They affect the health and social well-being of all Canadians just as they diminish our humanity.”

READ MORE: B.C. has 50 new COVID-19 cases since Saturday, Bonnie Henry reports

While many communities appear to have community transmission under control, the virus is continuing to wreak tragic consequences in group housing settings, like long-term care homes, homeless shelters and prisons.

At least half the Canadians who have died of this disease so far lived in long-term care homes, and in Ontario and Quebec, more than three in four deaths are linked to the facilities. Both provinces have requested help from the military because it’s not only those living in these homes who were vulnerable, but also those looking after them. Ontario reported on the weekend that 1,181 staff in long-term care homes are sick. Quebec says 4,000 health workers have tested positive, and another 5,500 are in isolation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week there will be tough questions to face about how Canada’s seniors were not better protected from the virus, and how it got so bad that we need to send in the military to help.

Wages could be part of the issue in recruiting and maintaining qualified staff — both Ontario and Quebec boosted hourly wages for essential workers this month. Quebec Premier Francois Legault also pointed fingers at private operators, saying last week he was considering making all care homes public. He also said the facilities needed more workers and more space to keep residents apart to prevent the virus from spreading like wildfire.

READ MORE: More than 10,000 businesses apply for wage subsidy on opening morning: Trudeau

The Canadian Red Cross was moving some long-term care residents with COVID-19 in one part of Montreal to a local arena for treatment.

Tam said the idea of moving sick patients elsewhere is being discussed in other areas too but she said it is complicated by the high level of care many of those patients require.

Ontario NDP MP Charlie Angus said the changes to come after the COVID-19 crisis has passed must include a full rethink of the pillars of globalization and privatization upon which Canada’s economy has been built.

“What is staggering about this virus is that all the myths about our economy crumbled almost overnight,” said Angus. “Millions of people, within one week, didn’t have enough money to pay the rent.”

Global supply chains for critical medical equipment failed us and our allies were taking equipment we ordered right out from under us, said Angus.

The NDP is kicking off a task force this week to consult with the public and some of Canada’s leading experts on economics and finance, to ask and try and find answers to what went so wrong and how we fix it.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CanadaCoronavirus

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

Just Posted

Commercial plaza proposed for Rocky Creek and Ludlow intersection

Town Council directed the application proceed for further consideration

Symphony pop-up concerts coming to Saltair

Only 40 tickets available so get them soon if you’re interested

South Wellington Elementary demolition not taking place next school year

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public School trustees vote against razing south-end school in 2020/21

One piper piping during the pandemic

Tribute to health care workers reaches the 100th performance

Town of Ladysmith receives $3.3 million grant for Arts & Heritage Hub

The funds will go to creating artist studios around the Machine Shop and maintaining heritage assets

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

We’re asking you to lock arms with us, as we look to better days ahead

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Vancouver Island business ad unintentionally features OK gesture linked to white supremacy

Innocuous ‘OK’ gesture in cleaning franchise advertisement gets flak on social media for ‘supposedly’ promoting white supremacy

Minivan driver’s speed a factor in fatal 2018 Malahat crash

Driver was travelling at 110 km/h in a construction zone

Comox Valley RCMP looking for missing woman

Ami Guthrie was last seen in Courtenay in early July

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

National Kitten Day aka the ‘purrfect’ day to foster a new friend

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a special day to celebrate all things kittens

Most Read