Dr. Patty Daly and Dr. Eric Grafstein have been leaders in B.C. healthcare for a few decades now. The married physicians are intrepid leaders and during the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve piloted their colleagues gallantly.

Daly is the Vice President, Public Health, and Chief Medical Health Officer for Vancouver Coastal Health. Grafstein is the regional head of emergency medicine for Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care. There have been 899 cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region (population 1.5 million) and 2,550 across the whole province.

They’re members of the reform synagogue called Temple Sholom in Vancouver so when Rabbi Dan Moskovitz convened a webinar for congregants and the community at large, he naturally tapped them.

I’ve watched the session that took place earlier this month and it was surprisingly reassuring in tone. Grafstein and Daly are about as well suited for a pandemic as anyone since they embody logic and calmness under pressure.

Grafstein debunks the need to wear gloves at all times (they may give a false sense of confidence; handwashing and sanitizer are the best modes of hygiene). He’s meticulous but not obsessively so. I watched a video of CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta wiping down every product in his grocery bag; Grafstein said he doesn’t clean packages of products he buys at the grocery store but he does wash produce before it’s used and he cleans his hands incessantly.

Referring to the resumption of activities like canceled or delayed surgeries, Daly said:

“We’ve significantly bent the curve, so we can begin to lift some public health measures.” She also spoke about children who have a much lower risk of infection for inexplicable reasons, and that’s why daycares and day camps can likely re-open this summer, with some restrictions. Thousands of children have been tested for COVID-19 in B.C. and less than one percent have been confirmed to have had COVID-19.

Daly spoke to the anxieties people have about even going outside.

“It’s quite safe to be in parks, exercising outdoors. I’m not aware of any transmissions through casual exposures outdoors. People can be reassured that there isn’t a risk when someone passes them on the street.  We shouldn’t fear that passersby will infect us as long as they aren’t coughing or spitting directly in our faces.”

Asked by Rabbi Moskovitz about COVID-19 transmission to doctors, Grafstein said he knows of only one medical colleague at St. Paul’s who got the virus and he is “positive he didn’t get it in the hospital.” (Nearly a quarter of COVID-19 cases have been among health care workers, mostly those who work in long term care facilities).

But Grafstein acknowledged that the shortage of personal protective equipment for healthcare professionals and workers has been an ongoing issue requiring “shepherding logistics and procurement.

“At various times there’s been a concern on whether we’d run out. I wear a mask and a face shield but I keep it on throughout my shift.”

Daly said every positive case is followed up and “Eric is right, this is different than SARS, almost every health care worker transmission has occurred in the community,” she said, noting the community-acquired cases are what led to outbreaks in long term care facilities.

Not surprisingly, the rabbi asked about when houses of worship might be allowed to reopen. Daly said she can’t predict when that might happen:

“Gatherings over 50 will be the last thing we lift. Houses of worship have to protect older people…” she said.

In the fall, she expects university classes might be a combination of virtual and in-class teaching.

Asked at the end of the hour-long sessions about any blessings or silver linings that have come from the pandemic, Grafstein said the uptake of virtual health care technology is one. Apart from the utilization of technology, he cited the fact that the pandemic has led to “people coming together to sort out problems, to tackle it, and that gives me great confidence.

“Canada has done better (than many other nations),” he said, before giving a shout-out to his wife and other public health officials.

Daly echoed her husband’s comments about the use of technology.

“Like in any war, there is innovation,” she said, adding that governments have “come together to do the right thing.”

Rabbi Moskovitz got the last word in, praising the two for being the kind of “heroes we clang and bang pots for, and who we pray for.”

Watch the session on Youtube here.

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