Dr. John Hollins, past Chair CACOR, recently had these letters published in newspapers.
1. Asking us to snitch isn’t democratic
Ottawa Citizen, 11 Apr 2020
The federal requirements for travellers returning from another country and for citizens who test positive are entirely reasonable. Some of the municipal requirements are over-broad, typical of government inadequately informed and under stress.
My councillor warns us about substantial fines and encourages us to snitch on our neighbours. So not only is my municipality heavy-handed, it is trying to practise a mode of control used by oppressive governments from the days of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany to North Korea. In a democracy, this did not work during Prohibition a century ago.
This kind of fearmongering and propaganda risks overreaction by the general public and could easily backfire and instigate public unrest. As simple-minded as it is to prohibit folks from “playing on soccer fields,” it is much worse to encourage the public to report others for what they perceive to be transgressions — a truly unfortunate, fear-fuelled, knee-jerk reaction.
John Hollins, Gloucester
2. ‘It would be too easy to simply blame government.’ Readers react to Canada’s pandemic preparedness
Globe and Mail, 2020 April 16:
We are now painfully aware that the government was not prepared for COVID-19, despite a substantial 2006 report by Canadian authorities in this domain. What has happened in 2020 seems to be a massive failure of public policy. But it would be too easy to simply blame government.
Governments almost always have overloaded agendas. Getting on to it is not like tuning a radio receiver to the transmitter, but rather the other way around. A federal-provincial committee, a citizen, a lobbyist or a bureaucrat should follow “Slater’s rule” (named after Robert Slater, former senior assistant deputy minister at Environment Canada): no more than three main messages, each with no more than three sub-points.
The 2006 Canadian Pandemic Plan is a massive document. It opens with nine pages that name its contributors. Without them, of course, there would not be a plan, but that is not an effective way to open communication with any audience except the contributors. How often in the years since 2006 have bureaucrats or academics raised this matter with government?
Ministers now are likely to put this issue on their agenda for a year or two. But history suggests that the next pandemic will arrive later than that. What are Canada’s public health people going to do in, say, two years from now?
John Hollins, PhD; Gloucester, Ont.
3. COVID-19: Ottawa: Estimates and Reported Cases
2020 April 6
A few months ago, the Ottawa Citizen carried a story about a famous financial house that had issued a new forecast substantially different from its forecast three months earlier. I wondered: why is my newspaper giving me a forecast from a source that got it completely wrong last time?
On March 16, the Citizen had a column about COVID-19 that quoted Ottawa’s Public Health Officer: “… there could [already] be from a couple of hundred to even a thousand cases of COVID-19 in the community”. On March 23, the paper reported an announcement by Dr.Vera Etches estimating that “there could be as many as 4,000 cases in Ottawa right now — and 16,000 within a week.”
More than a week has passed. On April 6, Ottawa Public Health published on its website a graph showing the cumulative number of cases to date in Ottawa: 370. Even with the caveat that illnesses that began recently may not yet be reported, the actual number is not remotely close to the estimate of 4,000 on March 23 or 16,000 by March 30. It’s not just out of the ballpark; it’s in the next county. Can someone please help me to understand what is going on here?
John Hollins, Ph.D.
17 Parkwood, Gloucester K1B 3J5