The Toronto Public Health Advisories Are Not Your Fault

Toronto Public Health’s vice-chair responds to backlash over Sun column about COVID-19, says her only aim was to ‘promote discourse’ and ‘discussion’

The Globe and Mail

March 29, 2020

The headline of Toronto Public Health’s online newsletter this week — “It’s not your fault” — seemed to sum up a lot of the frustration that has come with the city’s response to COVID-19.

A month earlier, the Ontario government had advised Canadians that public health advisories are intended only to be seen as guidance, not as definitive advice.

And the advice that emerged from Toronto Public Health’s pandemic-response team, which advised the public to avoid crowded gatherings, was that the advice was intended to be used only as a public health tool to help people make decisions about what is best for themselves.

“They were not promoting a change in behaviour,” said the author of that article, Dr. Jo-Ann Manson, a medical doctor at Sunnybrook and Mount Sinai hospitals. “The whole purpose was to facilitate discussion.”

Manson is now the city’s vice-chair in public health.

But the backlash from some Torontonians and the media was swift, and loud. The letter-writing campaign to her boss was almost as loud.

The columnist-author’s article was widely attacked online. It was derided as irresponsible and out of touch with reality.

In response, she said, “The whole point was to promote discussion, promote dialogue and to encourage us to figure out what the best possible course of action is. The only thing I was doing was offering them that conversation — and I feel like the conversation they were looking for wasn’t available through this public health advisory.”

Manson wasn’t the only person who publicly rebuked the article. In a column last week, Dr. Eric Hoskins, Toronto’s chief health officer, wrote that it “undermines the credibility of the public health advisory,” which he said

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