Toronto Public Health’s vice-chair responds to backlash over Sun column about COVID-19, says her only aim was to ‘promote discourse’
On April 24, Toronto Public Health’s vice-chair posted an opinion piece on the website of the Toronto Sun newspaper, which ran a column by Toronto Public Health’s executive director, Dr. Barbara Yaffe.
Yaffe’s column, titled “What you need to know about COVID-19,” discussed various aspects concerning the transmission of the coronavirus, such as hospital capacity, which has been the predominant aspect of public discourse. While she said she has “only the briefest knowledge of this topic,” Yaffe asserted COVID-19 is “the most terrifying challenge to our health for a generation.” She wrote:
“When outbreaks of communicable disease become global pandemics that threaten the lives of entire societies and the livelihoods of millions of people, the public health community has an obligation to speak up on these issues and defend public health.”
Yaffe said she was “not a medical expert” but a “public health professional” and “the public health community has spoken up time and again and said, ‘The numbers are too hard to count. They don’t fit in our understanding of how it might occur. We don’t know that.”
“The public health community is a complex group comprised of thousands of professionals across a diverse range of clinical and nonclinical backgrounds,” Yaffe wrote. “We often disagree, sometimes vehemently, about what is best for our communities and society.”
The article has since been removed from the Toronto Sun’s website and will be replaced with “an updated version” the next day, on April 25.