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Ontario Tech acknowledges the lands and people of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation.

We are thankful to be welcome on these lands in friendship. The lands we are situated on are covered by the Williams Treaties and are the traditional territory of the Mississaugas, a branch of the greater Anishinaabeg Nation, including Algonquin, Ojibway, Odawa and Pottawatomi. These lands remain home to many Indigenous nations and peoples.

We acknowledge this land out of respect for the Indigenous nations who have cared for Turtle Island, also called North America, from before the arrival of settler peoples until this day. Most importantly, we acknowledge that the history of these lands has been tainted by poor treatment and a lack of friendship with the First Nations who call them home.

This history is something we are all affected by because we are all treaty people in Canada. We all have a shared history to reflect on, and each of us is affected by this history in different ways. Our past defines our present, but if we move forward as friends and allies, then it does not have to define our future.

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Ontario Tech researcher offers her take on the next chapter of the world’s battle against COVID-19

Questions and answers with epidemiologist Dr. Emma Bartfay of the Faculty of Health Sciences

Dr. Emma Bartfay, Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ontario Tech University.
Dr. Emma Bartfay, Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ontario Tech University.

Ontario Tech University epidemiologist Dr. Emma Bartfay continues to monitor local, national and global developments with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Faculty of Health Sciences researcher offers her take on the latest developments.

Can the eventual change to warmer weather help stop the spread of the virus?

"Most likely not. The temperature needs to be at least 60° Celsius just to inactivate disease-causing microorganisms, let alone kill them. Warmer weather may actually have the opposite effect in terms of spreading the virus.

Current thinking is that COVID-19 is spread via droplets. But I always suspect that airborne transmission is possible given that so many people are infected so quickly. Droplets from an infected person (coughing, sneezing) can transmit the virus when another person is close enough. When the water evaporates from these droplets, the nuclei (middle) part containing the virus are left circulating in the air. Because those ‘evaporated’ droplets are lighter (without the water), they can linger in the air for a longer period of time. The result is airborne transmission of the virus. With the warmer weather around the corner, the ambient temperature will be higher, making it faster for the droplets to evaporate.”

What does the immediate bigger picture look like? 

“It’s difficult, but I think things will get worse over the next several weeks at least, perhaps even months. More cases will be detected and more deaths will happen. As long as we still have interactions among people, community transmission is inevitable. The next big thing could be multiple localized outbreaks at places like long-term care facilities and shelters, where residents are particularly vulnerable due to various health issues and limited opportunities to keep their distance from others.”

Are the current social-distancing protocols enough to stop the pandemic?

“I think all levels of Canadian government need to step up with the exclusionary measures and the classic approach of case-finding and contact-tracing as more people are returning to Canada from overseas. We are already seeing an increase of cases in Hong Kong (they called it a ‘second wave’) from returning residents. To really flatten or even to plank the curve requires every citizen’s co-operation; that is, we have to absolutely cut out all non-essential gatherings. Not less than 50 people, not less than five people. None at all.

However, this level of societal lockdown is not sustainable over the long run. I can’t imagine asking Canadians to stay indoors over the summer months when our summer is already very short. So everyone needs to work together now. The sooner things are under control, the sooner we can return to ‘normal.’ It is like pulling off a bandage. Do it quickly and endure the sharp pain for a short period of time, and you are done with it in an instant. Do it slowly and you may endure lesser pain, but over a much longer period of time.”

Are you concerned about people around the world who have still been travelling in recent weeks?

“Many people still proceeded with travel plans over the past several weeks, and some only recently returned home. Those people must self-isolate for at least 14 days and keep their distance and physical contacts with others to the absolute minimum. This is particularly important as the number of cases has increased dramatically over the last week. I also warned of the possibility of citizens being stranded overseas, and look what is happening now. Unfortunately some of those people may not be able to get back home for now.”


Previous items and related media coverage featuring Dr. Emma Bartfay

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