Where are variants spreading, and should I still disinfect surfaces? Your COVID-19 questions answered
Doctors Zain Chagla and Srinivas Murthy answered Checkup callers' questions
As Ontario enters a province-wide, four-week "emergency break" shutdown, Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases specialist, says that the places where COVID-19 transmission occurs is changing.
"They're not anything to do with restaurants, bars, gyms, outdoor dining, kind of the typical things that were classically associated with COVID-19," he told Cross Country Checkup host Ian Hanomansing.
"[It's] occurring in low-income communities, workplaces, multi-generational households, public transit — and unfortunately, it's very difficult to say that closing down very traditional places, limiting outdoor gatherings, is going to necessarily bridge that gap."
Though he believes vaccines could show some success in slowing a growing third wave in the province, Chagla said it may not be enough to change the virus' trajectory in urban centres.
Chagla added that now is the time to consider prioritizing vaccines for people in those at-risk groups who are now being hospitalized.
"The fastest solution is vaccination ... and coming up with models to make sure that the people that are unfortunately not the loudest, but are the ones that are out there being exposed to risk, are now front in line," he said.
As part of Checkup's regular Ask Me Anything series, Chagla and Dr. Srinivas Murthy, a pediatric critical care and infectious diseases specialist, answered callers' questions about COVID-19.
Is disinfecting surfaces necessary?
Early in the pandemic, experts advised that surfaces should be cleaned regularly to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"Last March at this time, we were recommending people leave their groceries in the garage for a couple of days and wipe them down and so on," said Murthy.
Calling from Calgary, Pam Ehlert asked if that guidance holds true more than a year later — and Murthy said that the science has "definitely evolved".
"We know fairly confidently that [COVID-19] spread based on surfaces is almost negligible, meaning it rarely, rarely happens," he responded.
"Cleaning surfaces is not going to make that much difference in terms of getting disease transmission under hold."
How safe is outdoor dining with the spread of variants?
With the weather warming, and many Canadians fatigued by lockdowns, some provinces have chosen to allow outdoor dining.
But with variants of concern spreading across the country, Peter Quily in Vancouver asked whether patios should be closed.
His comments come on the heels of a CBC News article citing experts encouraging greater caution when it comes to gathering outdoors.
Murthy said allowing people to dine on an outdoor patio is about " trying to minimize risk more broadly."
"We know going indoors will be high risk, and people, if they don't have an opportunity to socialize, are more likely to be doing this for some time," he said.
While he acknowledged it carries "some risk," Murthy said it's a reasonable harm reduction approach, provided that diners are in a well-ventilated spot outdoors.
Written by Jason Vermes. Produced by Alejandrina Alvarez.
Hear more from Dr. Zain Chagla and Dr. Srinivas Murthy in Cross Country Checkup's Ask Me Anything on CBC Listen.