COVID-19: 15 comments from our experts in the media, March 21 to 27

Posted on Sunday, March 29, 2020

The University of Ottawa logo is displayed on a camcorder screen.

As we work from home during this coronavirus crisis, media outlets across the country are avidly seeking expert opinions from University of Ottawa researchers and professors. Among their many contributions from our experts this week, here are 15 that will keep you well informed, in either official language.

U of O lab putting 3D printers to use in fight against COVID-19

CBC, March 23

uOttawa’s Richard-Labbé Makerspace is heeding the call to help frontline health-care workers by using its 3D printers to manufacture vital personal protective equipment.

"We know that we have a certain set of knowledge, skills and resources that could make a difference. So it's not about why we wanted to do it, but it's like, why not do it?" said Midia Shikh Hassan, one of the managers at the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Engineering Design (CEED) uOttawa, home of the Richard L'Abbé Makerspace.


How to avoid contaminating your home during the COVID-19 pandemic

La Presse, March 21

A simple walk outside now makes us aware of all the actions and objects that link us to others. Once we get back home, we start asking: Where should I put my coat, my glasses, my phone, my bags and my purchases?

“Don’t buy any specialized soaps, that’s useless,” says Marc-André Langlois. “I wash my fruits and vegetables in water with a tiny drop of non-toxic dish soap. Since it can be consumed, no one will get sick if a little happens to remain on the food.”


Canada should ensure cellphone tracking to counter the spread of coronavirus does not become the new normal

The Globe and Mail, March 22

This column is by Michael Geist, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law.

“Many countries have already moved in this direction. For example, Israel has implemented a system that involves the collection and use of cellphone location data to identify at-risk individuals, who may receive text messages warning that they need to self-quarantine. Taiwan has used cellphone tracking to warn those self-quarantining that they have travelled too far from home, with some Indian states adopting similar measures. In normal times, most Canadians would respond to the collection and use of sensitive health and location information with a hard ‘no.’ But these are not normal times.”


Tokyo Olympics: Health experts warn holding 2020 Summer Games too soon risks spreading coronavirus more

USA Today, March 22

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told world leaders he wanted the Tokyo Olympics his country is preparing to host to be proof that mankind could “defeat the new coronavirus.”

Epidemiologist and professor of law and medicine at the University of Ottawa Amir Attaran explains that “If they put it on the calendar, they have to be prepared to perhaps move it a second time because we just don’t know when it will be safe enough to proceed. Could it be in 12 months? Possibly, but are you going to take a big bet on that? Because that’s what the IOC would be doing. Would it be safe in two years? Almost certainly, but are they going to commit right now to two years?”


How professors are teaching at a distance during the COVID-19 pandemic

Le Droit, March 22

This article was written by Anne Lévesque, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law

“I was a member of a team of lawyers who created the University of Ottawa’s Law Practice Program, an experiential learning program in law for future Ontario lawyers. I am currently teaching a common law course in French at the University and am using a blended learning style. Here are a few tips based on my experience for those among you who are venturing into the world of online courses for the first time.”


Police reluctant to ticket, arrest COVID-19 rule-breakers 

Med News Ledger, March 25

The government warnings to Canadians to keep their distance and stay home — especially if they have recently been abroad — are being delivered in the sternest terms.

Martha Jackman, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, believes that “fines and restrictions may well end up being challenged on constitutional grounds as undue infringements on the Charter of Rights’ guarantees of freedom of mobility and due process. That might be why police are reluctant to levy the fines, finding the threat more effective than the actual enforcement.”


Labs race to produce tests that show where COVID-19 has already been

The Globe and mail, march 23

Maxim Berezovski, a University of Ottawa biochemist, is working on a system that could eventually allow people to test themselves for antibodies at home and could be applied to a range of viruses. Given the upheaval caused by COVID-19, the ability to rapidly scale up such a technology would be an important tool for avoiding a repeat of the current pandemic.

“This is our future,” Dr. Berezovski said. “We could eventually be doing many diagnostic tests at home and then more detailed tests at clinics.”


Ontario COVID-19 press conferences in English only

Radio-Canada, March 23

This Radio-Canada report discusses the fact that since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Ontario premier Doug Ford and his provincial government colleagues in the ministries of health, education, finance and labour, have communicated entirely in English during their press conferences. And the same is true for those in charge of public health.

According to Luc Bonneville, professor of communications and expert in organizational communications, transmitting such messages in French can sow confusion among Ontario’s Francophones.

“We are not all equal in terms of our ability to handle this and manage our way out of a crisis like the one we are currently experiencing. We know that Ontario’s Francophones, who live in a minority setting, are receiving much more information in English, which can heighten the confusion, and thus increase feelings of fear, panic and distress that we see in many members of the population.”

How did we miss the COVID-19 outbreak and what are we missing now?

iPolitics, March 23

Given the unprecedented experience we are going through now, it’s jarring to look back to late January and early February, to a time when the world was relatively unstressed by a major disease outbreak in Wuhan, a Chinese city of 11 million people.

“It’s difficult for political decision-makers to lock down a country every time a new virus emerges. The point at which you instruct people to stay at home, to not send their kids to school, is always going to be fairly late,” said Attaran, a lawyer and biologist specializing in population health at the University of Ottawa. “There will need to be some reassessment of how our early warning systems work, and how our early responses work, because the whole world, for the most part, got something very wrong.”


Report, confront, or keep quiet?

Le Droit, March 24

In this column, the author asks how we should react when we find out that someone is not following the rules put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Should we report them to the police, to public health officials, on social media or traditional media, and publish their photo and address?

According to François Charbonneau, a professor of political science at the University of Ottawa who studies issues related to coexistence in society, “reporting someone is neither good nor bad. It always depends on the situation and how those in power will use the information. If reporting will prevent a crime, then go ahead, but the best course of action would be to raise awareness,” he said. “Your first reflex should be to talk to the person, rather than to the police.”


Francophone newspapers hit hard by COVID-19

ONfr+, March 25

The economic repercussions of the pandemic are being brutally felt by Francophone newspapers. Many will have difficulty recovering.

“COVID-19 could sound the death knell for several papers,” said media expert Marc-François Bernier, professor of communications at the University of Ottawa. “These media outlets were already in the ICU, and with this crisis, it’s as if someone had just pulled the plug,” he said. “Some will not make it, while others will need to be resuscitated.”


‘Stay calm and move forward’: Indigenous doctors on strength, resilience in the face of pandemics

APTN, March 26

Indigenous peoples have been through pandemics before — and so has Dr. Darlene Kitty, director of the Indigenous Program with the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine. Kitty was on the front line in 2009 when the H1N1 pandemic hit her home community of Chisasibi in northern Quebec, hospitalizing people at a rate 33 times higher than in the rest of the province.

“In H1N1 we were kind of fighting on our own because it was the first time a big event happened,” says Kitty. “But by the second wave I think we learned by experience and we came out better in the end. But I know there were other First Nations that struggled.”


Brown: Your COVID-19 questions answered (today, why testing doesn't detect every case)

In this article Earl G. Brown, emeritus professor of virology at uOttawa, answers the following question:

“Can you test negative for COVID-19 but still have it? I keep hearing about people with no symptoms who might be spreading the disease?”

Is there information overload on COVID-19?

L’Actualité, April 2020

Luc Bonneville, a sociologist and professor who specializes in organizational and health communications, offers his take on the media coverage of the current pandemic.

“Consider the words, photos and graphs being used by various media to discuss the current crisis, to illustrate the issues, and set the scene. Social media, blogs and other digital platforms are doing the same. We are being inundated with information, and not given enough time to step back and analyse it properly. We should be asking whether this information, that plays on our emotions, tends to amplify the panic that is spreading through the population.”


Diesel prices infuriate truck drivers

Journal de Montréal, March 27

Although truck drivers are on the front lines, delivering essential products during the COVID 19 crisis, the price of diesel is dropping much more slowly than the price of gasoline. 

Jean-Thomas Bernard, professor of economics at the University of Ottawa, believes that “oil companies are increasing their profit margins on diesel to compensate for lost revenues on gasoline. Demand is less elastic for diesel than for gas.”  

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