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COVID-19: A Public Health Officer Responds to the Controversy

COVID-19: A Public Health Officer Responds to the Controversy

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Toronto Public Health’s vice-chair responds to backlash over Sun column about COVID-19, says her only aim was to ‘promote discourse’

Toronto Public Health’s vice-chair addresses the controversy sparked by the Sun’s April 5 column about COVID-19. (Michael Wilson / Toronto Star)

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Toronto Public Health’s vice-chair addresses the controversy sparked by the Sun’s April 5 column about COVID-19. (Michael Wilson / Toronto Star)

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When Toronto Public Health public health officer Dr. Eileen de Villa’s column in the Sun the week of April 5 became a subject of controversy, she responded with the calm, measured and professional response of a public health officer.

And, as is often the case in such cases, she found herself facing calls of both protest and condemnation for her efforts to keep the city informed about the health and spread of the novel coronavirus.

The controversy began when de Villa penned a column on April 4, one day after the virus was first diagnosed in Toronto, that called for residents to limit contact with others “for the next four weeks.”

That spurred a Twitter firestorm, as the hashtag #covid16grams rose in popularity to the tune of several hundred mentions. Tweets included: “This is crazy. I have been tested, and I do not have the virus.” Another: “I have been living in the city for 30 years and have never had to worry about coronavirus. Please tell me this isn’t a hoax.” Another: “We live in a society where we can make our own decisions, and people are going to believe what they want without our knowledge.”

And then, on April 5, the city’s public health and safety commissioner, Dr. Eileen de Villa, weighed in with her own column.

“I believe that the best way for us to fight this virus is through our collective actions, not our fear,” de Villa said. “If we’re looking to do what we can on a

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