School of Policy Studies

School of Policy Studies
School of Policy Studies

Want the latest COVID-19 health advice? On Twitter, ‘we’re seeing scientific and medical research unfold in real time’

May 6, 2019
The Toronto Star / Northumberland News - Marco Chown Oved, with comments by David Walker, Professor School of Policy Studies, Queen's University

On March 22, Dr. Janine McCready, an infectious disease specialist at Michael Garron Hospital, called out the province for maintaining that COVID-19 is coming primarily from foreign travellers.

“We need a clear statement openly acknowledging community transmission & letting go of the preoccupation with travel,” she tweeted, saying this information was weeks behind the reality she was seeing in the emergency room. “(This) lack of recognition of the increasing number of cases with NO LINK TO TRAVEL is irresponsible.”

McCready continued, arguing that the public had been led to believe they were not at risk if they had not been in contact with travellers. But, McCready went on: “People need to modify their behaviour NOW & we need to give them accurate information so they can do so.”

The next day, the province ordered all non-essential workplaces closed. The day after that, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief medical officer of health, announced that community transmission had overtaken travel as Canada’s primary source of virus cases.

While it’s questionable if Tam was influenced by McCready’s tweets, the episode is one of many examples of social media presaging public health authorities.

The daily press conferences held by Canada’s public health officials are supposed to provide the most up-to-date information on the pandemic and the best advice for how to stay healthy.

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