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Confronting COVID-19

Redesigning Canada for physical distancing and COVID-19

People sit in circles in a park for social distancing.
Some cities are drawing circles in the grass at parks to ensure physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Canada slowly re-opens during the COVID-19 outbreak, urban planners and politicians are working to re-configure their cities to adjust to life with physical distancing and reduce the spread of the virus.

City officials drawing large circles in the grass in parks to space people out and closing street lanes to create a wider area for people to walk, and stores dedicating the first hour of shopping to seniors and people-at-risk are examples of society adjusting to the new reality of COVID-19.

John Meligrana (MPL’91), a professor in the Department of Geography and Planning, has launched a study to discover the new policies and protocols that cities have successfully adopted. The research will be compiled in a report and shared with urban planners, politicians, and municipal leaders across Canada in the fall to help them re-open their towns as safely as possible.

While the world waits for a vaccine to be found in the next year or two, public health officials say physical distancing is one of the top weapons against COVID-19. Designing how thousands of people interact within neighbourhoods, buildings, and public spaces is what urban planners do, so Dr. Meligrana hopes his report can play a role in saving lives during the pandemic.

“We are all praying for a vaccine,” says Dr. Meligrana. “I am praying for all our first responders and praying for scientists to resolve this. But in the meantime, we need to rethink how we are using our cities. How do you achieve physical distancing in Canada’s most densely populated cities? That’s the question. That’s where we can contribute.”

The project is being funded by Rapid Response, a Queen’s project supporting research that contributes to the development, testing, and implementation of medical or social countermeasures to mitigate the rapid spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Meligrana has hired two grad students (Claire Lee and Stephan Kukkonen) and is working with two fellow Department of Geography and Planning faculty members (Patricia Collins and Ajay Agarwal) to research and complete the report by the end of October.

They plan to look issues at related to public places (such as parks and sports fields), transportation, and vulnerable communities that have been impacted harder than affluent communities.

Dr. Meligrana is already seeing emerging trends, such as a movement toward “quiet streets.” With fewer people driving, some cities are closing roads to create more room for pedestrians. It doesn’t always work. Kingston recently closed parts of two downtown streets, but re-opened them a few days later after a public outcry. These experiences can provide valuable lessons to city planners.

“We know there are a lot of these good ideas out there,” Dr. Meligrana says. “We hope to catalogue them, package them, and share them with as many people as possible. Planners can play a big role in making communities safer.”

How to calmly navigate personal interactions during COVID-19

Two men wearing masks speak with each other during an outdoor workout.
Across Canada, as we enter new, expanded phases of reopening and increased contact, we may feel uncomfortable interacting in person again. There are many options available. (Unsplash / Kate Trifo) 

Thanks to COVID-19, we’ve slowly built new routines centred on being at home. But as we start to enter various phases of reopening and increased contact, we may feel uncomfortable interacting in person again.

Treating each interaction as a type of micro-negotiation provides a helpful road map for navigating these potentially tricky situations.

What once were automatic interpersonal behaviours now require explicit agreement.

What do you do if someone enters the elevator with you without a mask?

If a friend rushes close to greet you?

If someone stands too closely in line?

What if you are (perhaps unintentionally) the offending party?

These situations are increasingly common and can escalate quickly into full-blown conflicts if not handled carefully. I draw on research on effective negotiations and conflict management to offer concrete suggestions and practical tips for how to ensure everyone walks away happy — and safe.

Overall, treating each interaction as a micro-negotiation first involves a change of mindset. Productive changes to your behaviour will then follow more easily.

It is important to note that many interactions won’t require all the recommendations below. But thinking about each in advance can help you be ready in the moment. A negotiation done well in this case may be one in which you don’t even realize you’ve successfully negotiated until after it’s over. Practice and preparation are key so that these tactics become second nature.

Prepare and have a plan beforehand

In negotiations, an important concept is what’s known as BATNA, which stands for the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. It is what you will do instead if you don’t reach agreement with your negotiation counterpart.

For daily interactions during the pandemic, this means you should have a clear idea in advance of what you will do if a situation gets too uncomfortable. Research shows that having a defined, desirable alternative in mind helps negotiators perform better; the psychological comfort of having an attractive backup plan helps you feel more powerful and removes unnecessary stress in the current moment.

Rather than storming away in a huff, or escalating a conflict unnecessarily, plan ahead and have explicit options in mind. For example, if mask-wearing doesn’t seem to be enforced in a particular place, know before you leave your home what you will do: you might get takeout from a different restaurant, order groceries for pickup or delivery or simply come back at a different time.

Having your alternative in mind will help you remain calm, knowing that you always have a perfectly acceptable alternative. In fact, research shows that simply feeling that you can handle a tense situation can help you avoid reacting unproductively.

A couple wearing masks descend concrete stairs.
Despite our best intentions, it is likely that some interactions may lead to strong emotions, even anger. (Unsplash / Cheng Feng)

Respect other perspectives, but be creative

Although it might seem inconceivable that someone may have a different comfort level in terms of interactions than you do, it’s bound to happen and doesn’t mean the other person is crazy. (In fact, they may be thinking you are the crazy one.)

A more productive approach is to try to understand the other person’s perspective, and how you can satisfy both of your underlying needs in a creative way. Separate the position (the behaviour, or the “what” that makes you feel uncomfortable) from the interest (the “why” of the behaviour).

For example, if you’re not comfortable attending the “small” get-together of friends that somehow grew much larger in number, that’s OK. Simply say so explicitly, but also suggest an alternative that could meet both your and the host’s interests (to connect with an old friend) in a different format (taking a physically distant walk together later in the week).

Remember that respecting the other person doesn’t mean you have to agree with their position.

But by being creative and focusing on deeper, underlying interests rather than more superficial positions, you can keep everyone happy.

Don’t take it personally, and use threats wisely

Despite our best intentions, it is likely that some interactions may lead to strong emotions, even anger.

However, rather than reacting angrily to a situation, which can backfire depending on how it is received, take a step back and reconsider the situation from an open-minded, problem-solving perspective.

Use the other person’s reactions and emotions as a trigger to help you find out what’s really going on at a deeper level, which research shows shows can help you reach a more mutually beneficial solution without having to simply give in to the other person’s demands.

If you feel that you need to resort to ultimatums, do so carefully and purposefully. Research suggests that WISE threats — those that you are willing to enact, that serve your underlying interests, that help the other person save face or maintain their dignity and that are exact rather than vague — are more likely to lead to effective conflict resolution.

Thinking about each interaction you have as a form of micro-negotiation will help you practise a few fairly minor behavioural and mindset changes so that you, and those around you, are more likely to have positive interactions and avoid unnecessary conflict.

It’s important to remember that we’re all navigating uncharted waters, and negotiating what used to be mundane but now feels uncomfortable may not come naturally. However, with conscious practice and an open mind, it’s possible to approach even the most challenging interactions from a productive problem-solving mindset.The Conversation


Laura Rees, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behaviour, Smith School of Business, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

To change coronavirus behaviours, think like a marketer

A couple wear facemasks and glasses
Wearing masks in public is the new norm, however, there remains some significant resistance and rates of COVID-19 infection continue to rise rapidly across the United States, as well as among Canadians aged 20-29. (Unsplash / Nathan Dumlao)

COVID-19 has been a humbling experience. From a frayed pandemic early-warning system to a shortage of personal protective equipment for front-line workers, public health experts have been playing catch up.

But it has also been a teachable moment. We now know, for example, that the usual approaches to convince fellow citizens to prioritize societal well-being over personal desires are not working. Rates of COVID-19 infection continue to rise rapidly across the United States, but also among Canadians aged 20-29. Public health messaging is clearly not convincing this age cohort to change behaviours.

This is a call to action for social marketing to evolve and leverage powerful behavioural and technological tools that successfully engage hard-to-reach groups. There is compelling evidence from here in Canada that such an approach can work.

Social marketing applies commercial marketing technologies to motivate voluntary social behaviour. These techniques have been used to boost home-based recycling, safe sex, to encourage people to quit smoking and use seat belts, among many other behaviours.

Good social marketing is more important than ever, particularly during a pandemic. In general, however, public health officials have been slow to adopt approaches that have been used successfully in the for-profit world.

The four Ps

In marketing, the shorthand for selling a product or service is “the four Ps”: product, promotion, price and place. Social marketing takes the perspective that selling an idea can be approached in the same way. This includes aligning and customizing messages to specific audiences, rather than assuming everyone will respond the same way.

In the case of COVID-19, data suggest that people don’t share the same perceptions of risk, and this can be seen in their individual behaviour and resistance to public health messages. Similarly, there is a mismatch between the audience and medium. The current approach of relying on traditional news outlets and advertising, media releases and news conferences to communicate critical COVID-19 information is not proving effective at reaching younger adults.

Think of the difference among law, public health and marketing as sticks, promises and carrots. During COVID-19, there have been lots of sticks and promises (“stay home, stay safe”) and not much in the way of carrots. But carrots are needed.

Being confined to your home is a fundamentally unpalatable product for people for whom isolation is a significant psychological burden. Families with small children that are struggling with working, teaching and general caretaking and need specific guidance on how to meet child-care needs safely. Everyone needs access to outdoor space for transportation and recreation, regardless of preferred activity, especially when those correlate with income and race.

At the outset, little attention was paid to recognizing and addressing these barriers to compliance with the desired behaviour. Yet we have a Canadian example of how to take a complicated issue and break down barriers, in the context of physical activity.

Worldwide leader

ParticipAction has been a worldwide leader for decades in presenting a range of possible activities that people can do in small bursts throughout the day or week to meet recommended guidelines, all without having a gym membership or being part of organized sports.

By recognizing barriers that prevented people from being active, it opened up possibilities to Canadians who considered the product and place of physical activity unattractive.

The social marketing version of price has always been the most challenging of the four Ps to tackle. It is difficult for individuals to change a behaviour they enjoy or one that provides personal benefit, especially when such change may not benefit them directly.

But the behavioural economic concept of “nudging” that includes small financial incentives has proven to be financially more efficient than expensive advertising campaigns in convincing people to change behaviour.

Our research on a now-defunct made-in-Canada mobile app demonstrates the potential for using cutting-edge commercial marketing techniques and technologies to tackle the challenges of social marketing.

Carrot Rewards was a mobile app that gave users points from their loyalty program (such as Aeroplan, Scene and Petro Points) immediately after they completed a health intervention, such as completing an educational quiz, getting information about the flu shot or walking a certain distance or length of time. (Carrot Rewards folded in June 2019 but was purchased later that year by a technology firm with a plan to relaunch the wellness app.)

A woman shops while wearing a mask.
Social marketing applies commercial marketing technologies to motivate voluntary social behaviour. These techniques have been used to boost home-based recycling and encourage people to quit smoking. (Unsplash / Arturo Rey)

Canadians love their loyalty programs

Loyalty programs are tremendously popular in Canada. Some 90 per cent of Canadians are enrolled in at least one program. Studies show that, on average, there are four programs per person and 13 per household.

Carrot Rewards leveraged the desire for small financial incentives (in the form of reward points for movies, groceries and the like), and attracted an engaged and involved audience.

It employed a digital platform that allowed for customizable content and high message complexity. Using multiple choice “quizzes” of five to seven questions each, it both involved users through gamification as well as provided additional information on the topic in question.

The app was also able to target content to specific audiences based on demographic characteristics and answers to previous quizzes, as well as track physical movement and location via a smart watch or smartphone.

Engagement stayed high

With an existing base of 1.1 million users across Ontario, British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador — and 500,000 active monthly users — Carrot could have quickly expanded into other provinces as a key component of an integrated federal COVID-19 campaign for education, contact tracing and possibly even symptom tracking.

Our research has demonstrated that Carrot rapidly attracted and enrolled users, and maintained consistently high levels of user engagement over time, even as rewards diminished. That engagement remained high even at a modest average reward per user of 1.5 cents per day. The age and demographics of the users varied by loyalty program, and the app provided a relatively representative cross-section of Canadian society in terms of education, income and urban/rural/suburban locations.

All in all, Carrot showed impressive results.

Financial sustainability challenges aside, policy-makers and public health officials would be wise to consider maintaining this modern, data-driven approach to social marketing in their tool box. It would not only prove tremendously useful in the COVID-19 era, but it would place Canada at the forefront of innovation in social marketing around the world.The Conversation


Monica C. LaBarge, Assistant Professor, Marketing, Smith School of Business at Queen's University and Jacob Brower, Associate Professor and Distinguished Faculty Fellow of Marketing, Smith School of Business at Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Congratulating new graduates

Over 5,500 diplomas are being mailed to new Queen’s graduates.

Photo of diploma and congratulatory letters
Diplomas are being mailed with congratulatory messages and alumni pins, among other items. (Supplied photo.)

Queen’s students work hard to earn their degrees, and their achievements are typically celebrated with pomp and circumstance at convocation. While COVID-19 delayed this spring’s in-person ceremonies, the university is sending 5,554 special diploma packages to new graduates by mail this month.

In-person convocation ceremonies will be scheduled for the Class of 2020 when larger gatherings are permitted.

“Graduating from Queen’s is a great accomplishment, and it is disappointing that we were not able to celebrate with our new graduates in person this year. When they receive their diplomas in the mail, I hope they will reflect on all their hard work and feel proud of what they’ve achieved,” says Stuart Pinchin, University Registrar (Interim).

To help mark the occasion, Queen’s is sending three congratulatory letters along with the diplomas. One comes from the dean of the student’s faculty or school; another is from Alumni Services; and the third comes from Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada.

The university will also be mailing the objects typically presented to students during convocation ceremonies or shortly before. Indigenous students will be receiving a Blackfoot Peoples Mountain Blanket, graduates of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science will be receiving iron rings, and all graduates will receive an alumni pin.

During the period convocation ceremonies would have occurred, Queen’s developed a website about degree conferral and graduation activities to help congratulate graduates. This website features video messages from the principal, the chancellor, and the rector, who typically all address graduates during convocation ceremonies. And it also features a recorded message from members of the Indigenous community at Queen’s.

To view these messages and to learn more about how each faculty and school recognized graduation this year, see the spring 2020-degree conferral and graduation activities website.

Return to Campus Priorities outline released

The new outline will assist Queen’s units with planning for any required on-campus presence in fall 2020.

Queen's University has prepared a new Return to Campus Priorities outline to assist faculties, schools, and shared services units with their planning for any required faculty and staff presence on campus in fall 2020.

The majority of academic activities will be held remotely in the fall to keep campus density low. Detailed mapping of building capacities has been completed to ensure limited on-campus operations align with physical distancing guidelines and enhanced cleaning protocols.

“In all university planning, the health and safety of the Queen’s community is our top priority,” says Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Mark Green in an email to faculty and staff. “Where possible, employees are asked to continue to work remotely to decrease density on campus and mitigate the exposure of those whose work requires them to be on campus.”

Queen’s typically has more than 24,000 students on campus each year. However, in compliance with the stringent health and safety requirements in the current environment for the 2020 fall term, only 6,600 students are expected to regularly be on campus. About 4,400 students will be participating in on-campus academic activities, such as labs and limited in-person lectures, and Queen’s residences are planning to house approximately 2,300 students (about 100 of whom are counted in the 4,400 above).

As previously announced, programs that have been identified as priorities for on-campus delivery in fall 2020 are limited to those that require on-site access to specialized facilities for students to continue their studies:

  • The professional programs in Medicine, Nursing, and Rehabilitation Therapy in the Faculty of Health Sciences. These programs require on-campus delivery because of the need for on-site access for clinical skills training.
  • Research graduate master's, PhD, and some professional graduate and second entry programs. These programs will follow a combination of on-campus and remote delivery models to accommodate on-site access needs regarding labs and other critical teaching and research resources that cannot be accessed remotely.

In consultation with local public health officials, it was determined that Queen’s residences will run at 50 per cent capacity in the fall term to protect the health and safety of students and staff. It was decided that some spaces in residence should be made available, predominately for students admitted under the Indigenous and first-generation admissions pathways, first-year students with programs on campus, and students with learning needs or extenuating personal circumstances that create barriers to learning off campus.  

The Return to Campus Priorities outline provides guidance on positions with priority for returning to campus, such as staff and faculty required to deliver and support the limited amount of in-person academic and non-academic activities. It also underlines the importance of supporting staff and faculty with on-campus duties if they need to work from home due to, for example, their own health situation or caregiver duties.

Programs that have been identified as priorities for on-campus delivery in fall 2020, are limited to those that require on-site access to specialized facilities for students to continue their studies, such as professional programs in medicine, nursing, and rehabilitation therapy.

Each faculty and shared service unit is asked to submit a Request to Resume On-Campus Activities Form, with a sample plan for departments/units in departmentalized faculties. After that, similar plans for other departments/units can be approved at the faculty level with notification to the Campus Operations Group (COG) on numbers of people returning to specific buildings in August and September.

“As a limited number of staff and faculty return to campus, members of the Queen’s community are reminded to be vigilant about adhering to the protocols outlined in the Return to Campus Guidelines, including maintaining physical distancing, hand hygiene, wearing face coverings in public spaces, and staying home if you exhibit symptoms,” said Green.

To read the Return to Campus Priorities outline and find additional information on the phased return to campus, see the Campus Operations Group website and the central COVID-19 Information & Planning website.

Further information will be added to these websites in the coming weeks.

Process adjustments support smoother start to the year

Queen’s is helping students by extending deadlines for tuition payments and enrolment decisions. 

Photo of flowers with Grant Hall in the background
Payment deadlines and fall course drop dates have been extended among other adjustments to help students during the fall 2020 term.

As COVID-19 has made many aspects of life uncertain, Queen’s is helping students by making tuition and fee payments, award disbursements, and course registration processes more flexible. These changes include extended payment deadlines and fall course drop dates.

“We know the ongoing pandemic has caused a lot of anxiety for our students; we hope these steps will make their transition a bit easier as they settle into their studies, which will include remote learning for most of our students,” says Stuart Pinchin, University Registrar (Interim).

Several policies on tuition and fee payments have been adjusted for the fall semester. The tuition and fee payment date has been extended a month, from Sept. 1 to Sept. 30. The university is also currently withholding monthly interest fees on unpaid balances, as well as waiving late fees on overdue accounts.

Adjustments to enrolment processes

Students will also have more time to drop courses without penalty. Queen’s has extended the drop date for fall courses to week eight to give students additional time to settle into the term and to adjust to the remote delivery of most courses.

Withdrawal and readmission processes for graduate students are also being temporarily revised. These changes will help those who were unable to work on degree requirements over the summer term due to the pandemic. More information can be found on the School of Graduate Studies website.

Student awards and bursaries

Queen’s will be maintaining all entrance bursaries and in-program awards that take living expenses into account. Students will be able to receive these funds even if they are living at home. The university will also distribute all financial awards per term, instead of annually, which aims to smooth the flow of funding support to student accounts each semester.

Students with demonstrated financial need are encouraged to apply now for OSAP and other government student financial assistance. More information can be found on the Student Awards website.

Students with demonstrated need of financial assistance are also encouraged to apply to the Queen’s General Bursary, which provides a non-repayable grant.

For more information on all the process changes and adjustments, see the Office of the University Registrar’s website.

Contagion Cultures Lectures

A weekly virtual lecture series, Queen's Contagion Cultures, helps make sense of the COVID-19 pandemic through the expertise and insights of Arts and Science faculty members. This public-facing series asks important questions and explores complex responses to help society grapple with turbulent times.

A Faculty of Arts and Science collaboration between the School of Policy Studies, and the Departments of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Gender Studies, Film and Media Studies, and Cultural Studies, the lectures are livestreamed on Zoom every Tuesday at 4 pm EDT/EST with events scheduled until December 2020.

The lectures are open to the public and participants are asked to register in advance.

For more information on the series, including links to recordings and speaker bios, please visit the School of Policy Studies website.

Provost's update on 2021 winter term

Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Mark Green shares an update about academic planning for first-year undergraduate students.

As some of Queen’s incoming students are making decisions about their residence offers, several faculties and schools have worked to finalize their plans for first-year undergraduate programs in the 2021 winter term.

In developing their plans, the faculties and schools followed the following principles:

  • Supporting academic excellence and academic integrity in all courses, programs, and degrees
  • Promoting and protecting equity, diversity, inclusivity, and Indigeneity in all aspects of the educational experience
  • Providing equitable access to educational materials for all students
  • Ensuring that the individual academic accommodation needs of students are met
  • Seeking cooperation between different units and faculties, and being mindful that a decision made in one part of the institution will have consequences elsewhere
  • Supporting the progression and retention of students through academic program requirements

The faculty and school proposals were reviewed by the Academic Operations Group and the Senior Leadership Team. All plans are in alignment with current Public Health guidelines; however, these plans may change as requirements evolve between now and January.

With some exceptions, most first-year lectures will be delivered remotely. Other on-campus academic activities will vary somewhat across programs. The decision to hold some academic activities on-campus was determined based on the need for students to access specialized facilities, such as labs, and to ensure all students can progress in their studies and meet the academic requirements of their programs.

Regardless of the course delivery format, the university is committed to ensuring all students receive an equitable and robust learning experience. Programs and services to support academic success continue to be available to all students, including academic advising, library services, and wellness support.

Information on residence operations for the 2021 winter term will be available in early fall, and plans for upper-year students are in development. We appreciate your patience as we take the time to ensure our planning aligns with Public Health guidelines.

Detailed information on winter term academic programming for first-year students will be shared with students directly by their faculty, once their plans are finalized. 

- Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Mark Green

Aging, long-term care, and COVID-19

Dean Jane Philpott and members of the Queen’s community discuss the lessons learned about senior care during the pandemic with the second installment of the Conversations Confronting COVID-19 series

Watch the discussion

Lessons learned during COVID-19

Queen’s had a record turnout as more than 800 viewers tuned in to last week’s Conversations Confronting COVID-19 virtual event on the topic of aging. Moderated by Dr. Jane Philpott, Dean of Health Sciences, the event brought together experts in healthcare, research, and policy-making to discuss lessons learned about Canada’s elderly population and long-term care during the coronavirus pandemic. The panel included Laura Tamblyn Watts, ArtSci’94, CEO of CanAge, Dr. John Puxty (Medicine), Dr. Catherine Donnelly (Rehabilitation Therapy), and Dr. Kevin Woo (Nursing and Rehabilitation Therapy).

While the event focused on the response to COVID-19, the participants brought unique research and policy perspectives to senior care issues and the challenges Ontario and Canada may face moving forward post-pandemic. The panelists, including Dr. Philpott, spoke from their experiences and specific expertise, having pivoted their research and attention to focus on COVID-19 related issues or joined the frontlines to deliver senior care during the crisis.

Major discussion topics included what the response to the pandemic has taught us about our emergency preparedness, our success rate in safeguarding vulnerable members of our society, and how COVID-19 will influence Canada’s long-term strategy for healthy aging. The panelists looked at diverse senior care models in Canada ranging from long-term care to retirement homes and aging at home or alternative non-institutional settings and their responses to COVID-19, along with guidance for those navigating these systems. In particular, they described the mental and physical effects of social isolation for both seniors and their family members and their current research to address this crucial issue.

In response to some of the 100+ questions posed by audience members, the experts reflected on the impact of COVID-19 within BIPOC communities and where policy and collaborative research are needed to support fair overall healthy aging for all Canadians. Throughout the conversation, the panelists also examined opportunities for a pan-Canadian approach to long-term care, integrating care and care teams where possible, investing in education and the workforce, and applying best practices from other provinces and countries for sector innovation.

Guidance and resources for senior care

Many viewers also asked insightful questions around policies, as well as shared personal experiences for guidance on matters such as supporting family caregivers. While the panelists could not respond to each question within the hour, they have provided a list of resources ranging from information about senior care programs and policy actions to ways for the community to get involved through the Queen’s Community Connections Project.

Additional Information

Conversations Confronting COVID-19

Queen’s University Relations and Advancement offices are currently planning additional events in the Conversations Confronting COVID-19 series for the fall. To learn more about upcoming alumni events, visit the Queen’s Alumni website, and for more information about how Queen’s researchers are combatting COVID-19 explore the Research@Queen’s website.

Tracking the pandemic in Ontario's ERs

Queen’s University researcher Steven Brooks receives $1.2 million in funding to build a provincial database to track COVID-19 patients.

Emergency departments are on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic, and there is a lack of high-quality clinical data to guide best practices and optimize outcomes. 

Queen’s University researcher Steven Brooks has been awarded $1.2 million through the Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund for his project that will develop a provincial registry of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients in emergency departments across Ontario. 

“There is an urgent need for high-quality data from suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients managed in Ontario emergency departments to support better decisions, improve care, flatten the COVID-19 curve and support better preparedness for future pandemics,” says Dr. Brooks (Emergency Medicine, clinician-scientist Kingston Health Sciences Centre). 

Data to be collected includes details about each patient’s demographic information, health status, COVID-19 testing resultssymptoms and signs that prompted their emergency visit, testing and treatment in the emergency department, in-hospital treatment and course (e.g. whether they required life support and intensive care), as well as outcomes during their hospital visit (e.g. survival).  

The registry will support the development of clinical decision rules for patient screening, diagnostic studies (e.g. swabs and imaging), therapeutics (e.g. intubation) and disposition (e.g. admission to ICU, discharge home). 

The research team will also be following up with patients captured in the database by telephone at 30 days, 90 days, six months, and one year to measure survival and quality of life. 

In addition, the registry can potentially serve as the foundation for several other studies. For instance, Dr. Brooks is in preliminary talks with partners at Kingston Health Sciences Centre to plan a study that involves testing the blood of patients in the registry to understand how COVID-19 antibodies affect disease presentation and severity. He is also working with several provincial and national administrative data repositories (e.g. Canadian Institute for Health Information, Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences) to ensure that de-identified data captured in the registry can later be linked with administrative health data to understand how COVID-19 might impact health services use. 

The Ontario study is a component of a larger national network – The Canadian COVID-19 Emergency Department Research Network – led by Corinne Hohl out of the University of British Columbia.  There are 50 emergency departments across Canada participating and the team is also reaching out to international emergency department networks to establish the possibility of collaboration. 

One of the objectives of our registry is to contribute to the global knowledge base on the problem,” says Dr. Brooks. 

For more about the funding, visit the website. 


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