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Reflecting on COVID-19 one year in

A panel of experts reassembled to discuss the pandemic so far and the policies needed going forward.

Shortly after Canada identified its first case of COVID-19 in January 2020, the Queen’s School of Policy Studies assembled a panel of four experts to discuss the novel coronavirus and the role of public policy in the fight against it. One year later, this same panel got back together to reflect on the pandemic one year in and to talk about how their understanding of the virus has changed since January 2020 and the challenges it presents for policy today.

“We thought it might be useful to look again through our policy lenses at what we’ve learned during the past twelve months and how those lessons can inform policy going forward,” said Dr. David Walker, Special Advisor to the Principal on COVID-19 and Professor of Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, and Policy Studies at Queen’s, as he opened the discussion.

In addition to Dr. Walker, the panel brought together three other experts: Dr. Samantha Buttemer, Resident Physician in Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Queen’s and a family physician; Dr. Gerald Evans, Chair of Infectious Diseases in the Queen’s Department of Medicine and Director of Infection, Prevention, and Control at the Kingston Health Sciences Centre; and Dr. Kieran Moore, Medical Officer of Health (Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox, and Addington Health Unit) and Professor, Family and Emergency Medicine, at Queen’s.

The panelists addressed a wide variety of topics during the hour-long discussion, touching on policy as well as scientific and social aspects of the pandemic. Dr. Evans discussed how scientific understanding of the virus has evolved, and what he got wrong about COVID-19 during the first panel last year. Dr. Moore spoke about the role of public health during the pandemic. And Dr. Buttemer looked at the connection between the pandemic and inequities in Canadian society.

“COVID-19 has exacerbated the inequities in our society, and I think we need to spend some time reflecting on that and what we can do societally from a policy level to make changes so that this not the way we move forward,” said Dr. Buttemer.

At the end of the event, the panelists said they hoped to be able to reconvene in January 2022, but this time to discuss the end of the pandemic.

“Events like this one are an important way in which Queen’s can use its experts to share their knowledge about the pandemic with the community and bring attention to what we are learning as the pandemic progresses. I thank all four panelists for their involvement and the community members who attended for their enthusiastic engagement,” says Warren Mabee, Director, School of Policy Studies.

Watch the recent panel on the SPS YouTube channel. A recording of the January 2020 panel can be found on their YouTube channel as well.

SPS also co-hosts a weekly lecture series called Contagion Cultures that draws on experts from the Faculty of Arts and Science to provide context for understanding the cultural ramifications of pandemics. Learn more about Contagion Cultures on the SPS website.