Dr. Theresa Tam and COVID-19

May 11, 2020

Written by: Alicen Ricard

If you’re keeping up with the COVID-19 news another name you might recognize is Dr. Theresa Tam. Dr. Tam has been the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada since June 26, 2017. Her background is in immunization, infectious disease, emergency preparedness, and global health security. It is her job to provide advice to the Minister of Health and to provide advice to the President of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). She is also a pediatric disease specialist, who has held multiple positions at the PHAC, including Assistant Deputy Minister of the Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Branch. She has done a lot of work on the opioid crisis. She is also on the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee of the Health Emergencies Programme of the World Health Organization. She was the co-chair of a federal report on pandemic preparedness during the SARS crisis in 2006.  Along with SARS, she has also been in a leadership role for H1N1, Ebola, and now COVID-19. 

In January she urged Canadians not to worry too much about COVID and that it was too early to declare a state of emergency, but by the end of January, WHO declared a global health emergency, and Dr. Tam was adament about things such as social distancing through Febuary and March. On March 23 she told Canadians they need to be cautious of personal hygiene, comply with social distancing, and only travel if necessary. In April, Justin Trudeau appointed her to the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force

Like Dr. Bonnie Henry, Dr. Tam has been the calm voice of reason throughout this. She’s said that we avoided an explosive outbreak in Canada, but also that, “All this tells us is that we can't be too confident. We can't let our guard down. And we can't afford any weak points in our system,” Tam said. “To get this right, there will be a need to learn as we go and evaluate, adjust and right the course, as we take cautious steps.” She is cautiously optimistic, but also realistic. If we listen to her and comply with the restrictions she and other authority figures in this have set out, we might be able to slow the further spread. We need to remain cautious now that things are starting to open up again. 

Thank you, Dr. Tam and all public health officials across Canada and the World for their work during this pandemic.

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