The Current

'Every little thing that you do' could impact spread of COVID-19 over winter: Dr. Theresa Tam

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says COVID-19 can be kept in check through the winter if Canadians stick to good personal habits and limit contact with others.

Handwashing, masks and limiting contact outside immediate family are key: Tam

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, seen at a COVID-19 news conference in Ottawa on Oct. 30, 2020, says Canadians should keep in mind that everything they do can help the balance between keeping the virus under control and keeping some social and economic spaces open. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Read story transcript

Canadians can bring down COVID-19 numbers and keep schools and some workplaces open if they form personal habits that limit viral spread and stick to them, says chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

"The balance between keeping the virus under control and keeping some of these important social, economic spaces open is a very delicate one," Tam told The Current's Matt Galloway.

"Keep that balance, and that see-saw in front of [your] frame of mind, and know that everything, every little thing that you do helps keep that balance in check," she said.

"We can absolutely still bend that curve."

Handwashing, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance are part of the "longer-term sustained habits that everybody needs to develop," Tam said.

Dr. Tam urges Canadians to limit contact with people outside of home bubbles

2 years ago
Duration 1:45
During today's pandemic briefing, Dr. Theresa Tam urged Canadians to stick to their bubbles as cases of COVID-19 continue to climb across the country.

"We have to live with caution for the foreseeable future, it won't be for forever," she said. "But these are habits that everybody needs to develop."

She said people also need to reduce the number of people they see socially.

"We've got to cut down our contacts outside of the immediate family, in order for people to go back to school and to work, and for hospitals to continue the important routine procedures," she said.

Tam suggested jotting down a list of people you come into contact with.

"It gives people an idea actually of how many contacts, particularly ones where the measures haven't been taken, can result then in the propagation of the virus" she said.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been rising across Canada for weeks, averaging almost 3,000 cases daily for the past seven days. The highest single-day testing tally during the first wave in spring was on April 20, at just over 2,000. 

Trudeau questioned about public confusion over pandemic messaging

2 years ago
Duration 2:34
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke at the bi-weekly pandemic briefing in Ottawa on Tuesday.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged people to stay the course as cases continue to climb in some parts of the country.

"This sucks, it really, really does," Trudeau told a press briefing on Oct. 27. "It's going to be a tough winter. It's easy for us to want to throw up our hands ... it's frustrating to have to go through this situation."

Tam acknowledged that fatigue may set in as numbers climb again, and people "may be tired of hearing the same thing over and over again."

But she said that in the "hotspots of Canada" what they're seeing is that balance tilting toward the health-care system "eventually not being able to cope." 

"This is a marathon," she said. "It is not easy, but we mustn't let this virus gain a foothold and accelerate."

She gave the example of mask-wearing, which was a "very odd thing to do" at the beginning of the pandemic, but has now been widely adopted.

"I strongly believe that Canadians can do it," she said.

Dr. Tam on how Canadians should plan their Christmas and holiday celebrations

2 years ago
Duration 2:39
Dr. Theresa Tam spoke to reporters during a pandemic briefing in Ottawa on Friday.

Plan ahead for a safe holiday season: Tam

As numbers rise, Alberta's Premier Jason Kenney has urged people to avoid large gatherings in his province, while Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is considering a temporary curfew.

Tam acknowledged that as winter sets in, there are fewer options to spend time together outdoors, meaning people may opt for indoor gatherings, where poor ventilation can increase the risk of infection.

But she said "public health cannot do this alone." 

"It's trying very hard to keep up with these cases so that it doesn't increase mortality and severe illness, which means everybody has to try and keep the transmission down."

With holidays such as Hanukkah and Christmas approaching, Tam said people should "have a plan" about how they want to celebrate and avoid "uncontrolled" partying.

"We have seen that different long weekends and different gatherings — social, cultural, important events — do lead to increase in cases," she said.

"But you can plan ahead of time and have a really fun time still, and still connect with family in safe ways." 

Written by Padraig Moran, with files from CBC News. Produced by Julie Crysler.

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