Theresa Tam

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Theresa Tam
Theresa Tam, Promoting Vaccine Confidence.jpg
Tam speaking at a 2019 World Health Assembly event in Geneva
3rd Chief Public Health Officer of Canada
Assumed office
June 26, 2017

On 7 January 2020, when it appeared that there was a health crisis emerging in Wuhan, Tam advised Canadians: “There has been no evidence to date that this illness, whatever it’s caused by, is spread easily from person to person; no health care workers caring for the patients have become ill; a positive sign.” [15]

At the end of January 2020, Tam said "no reason to be overly concerned" about COVID-19. On 23 January, Tam was a member of the WHO committee that broadcast that it was too early to declare a public health emergency of international concern. On 26 January, Tam stated "There is no clear evidence that this virus is spread easily from person to person. The risk to Canadians remains low." [16] On 27 January, Canada confirmed its first case of COVID-19. [17] On 29 January, she told Canadians that "Canada's risk is much, much lower than that of many countries. It’s going to be rare, but we are expecting cases. … We are preparing the whole country in the event that you might pick up a rare case." [18]

In February, cases in Canada grew from 4 to 20. During this time, Tam authorized the release of Canadians who had been quarantined for 14 days after their repatriation from Wuhan and several cruise ships. [19]

March saw an explosion of cases in Korea, Europe, and then the United States and Canada. The WHO declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic. On 23 March, Tam began appearing in public service announcements urging for personal hygiene and social distancing, and against unnecessary travel. These announcements have continued to be aired throughout 2020. [20]

Tam initially recommended the general public against wearing masks for two reasons: (i) to protect healthcare workers and prioritize supply; and (ii) "potential negative aspects" of wearing masks, stating "it can sometimes make it worse if the person puts their finger in their eye or touches their face under their mask" and that it can give a false sense of security. [21] [22] On 6 April, Tam changed her recommendation to "wearing a non-medical mask, even if you have no symptoms, is an additional measure that you can take to protect others around you in situations where physical distancing is difficult to maintain" because of new data about pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission. [22]

On 23 April, Tam was appointed by Justin Trudeau to a new advisory body, the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, whose mandate he declared to be the coordination of serological surveys across the country. [23]

On 20 May, Tam strengthened her earlier mask recommendation stating "where COVID-19 activity is occurring, use of non-medical masks or face coverings is recommended as an added layer of protection when physical distancing is difficult to maintain". [24]

On 3 November, Tam recommended adding a filter layer to masks to provide more protection against COVID-19. [25]

In March 2021, an Auditor General's report described how Tam and the Public Health Agency of Canada failed to fully comprehend the threat posed by COVID-19 to Canadians. In particular, it was noted that the Agency waited until the day after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic, at which point the risk level was raised from its previous position of "low". [26]

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  16. Dr. Theresa Tam [@CPHO_Canada] (January 26, 2020). ""3/3 There is no clear evidence that this virus is spread easily from person to person. The risk to Canadians remains low. Find more info on #2019nCoV #coronavirus here: canada.ca/coronavirus"" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 29 January 2020. Retrieved 28 April 2020 via Twitter.
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  21. {{cite web |title=Tam: Current evidence doesn't support public needing masks |url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_edxN5kkBtc |publisher=CTV News |date=30 March 2020 |access-date=27 March 2021 |url-status=live
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  25. Neustaeter, Brooklyn (2020-11-03). "'Another layer of protection': Feds now recommend three-layer masks with filters". CTV News. Retrieved 2021-03-25.
  26. Brewster, Murray (25 March 2021). "Public Health Agency was unprepared for the pandemic and 'underestimated' the danger, auditor general says". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 14 April 2021.