I think one reason Canada’s doing ‘okay’ in beating back COVID-19 is that we have so many women in charge of fighting it.
Half of Canada’s 10 chief provincial medical officers are women, as is Canada’s chief medical officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, and Toronto’s, Dr. Eileen de Villa. This, in a land where there are no women Premiers or Prime Ministers. None.
Every day for the past month, these women have followed their political masters in daily briefings, buttressing the latest announcement with facts, science and advice.
As CTV News noted: “The scientists are pushing aside athletes and … entertainers for the public’s attention.”
Theresa Tam is no Celine Dion. In her “steely, distinctive voice,” she cajoles and comforts millions of us who are suddenly turning to broadcast news for our life-and-death information. Dr. Tam is almost a cliché of a typical Canadian professional: she was born in Hong Kong, got her medical training in Britain, then moved to BC where she was a fellow in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia.
Her female colleagues are threatening to become rock stars:
Dr. Bonnie Henry of BC cried when she announced at a press conference that two elderly people had contracted COVID-19 in a long-term care home. They hadn’t died. They’d just got the virus. Did we wince when we saw those tears? Did we think her weak and not up to the job? Of course not. If anything, her compassion and concern galvanized our own.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw of Alberta had to self-isolate, then returned to the podium wearing a dress patterned on The Periodic Table of Elements, which its Victoria manufacturer is now scrambling to meet orders for. Lest you think this is all a bit ‘girly’, take note that Quebec’s chief medical officer, Dr. Horacio Arruda gave Quebeckers his recipe for Portuguese Tarts to encourage them to do something they usually don’t in order to break the boredom of self-isolation.
Dr. Eileen de Villa is no stranger to health-care politics. She brings to her daily briefings with Mayor John Tory the scars from criticizing Premier Doug Ford’s loosened alcohol regulations, and pushing Ottawa to ban the sale of handguns. She took on Ford again when he tried to cut the number of public health units across Ontario from 35 to 10, claiming the Toronto Board of Health to be a “bastion of lefties.” Less than a month after Ford’s cuts were announced, Toronto confirmed two new cases of measles.
Meanwhile, up at Queen’s Park, Ontario’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, runs one of the largest Health Management Organizations in the world; and in Ottawa, Minister of Health, Patty Hajdu, and Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland, seem to be able to convey facts without their leader’s drama-school eye-rollers of being “all in this together” and “there for every Canadian.” Not that this doesn’t need to get said. Just not once every minute.
So now let’s cast our glance, painfully, to the south. By statistical right, Canada should be running at about one-to-ten cases of COVID-19 compared to America.
As of this writing, Canada has 5,655 cases and America has 124,686 – a more than one-in-twenty ratio. This is not cause for congratulations, but for fright.
Here I was going to hail Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, whose measured expertise has made her America’s Second Most Credible Spokesperson, next to the redoubtable Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is 79.
Until two days ago when the infection of standing so closely to America’s 45th President took hold as she answered a question about the clear and present reality that there won’t be enough respirators or hospital beds for everyone.
“To say that to the American people, to make the implication that when they need a hospital bed, it’s not going to be there, or when they need that ventilator, it’s not going to be there — we don’t have evidence of that right now.”
Oh well, it was a nice theory that women are more credible than men. Especially when it comes to existential crises.
At least it still is here in our home and native land.