This COVID-19 pandemic has seen the rise of a new set of Canadian folk heroes: public health officers.
That’s right. Whether you’re in British Columbia and tune in every day for Dr. Bonnie Henry’s calming updates or in Quebec listening to Dr. Horatio Arruda share his theme song of the day, Canadians have fallen in love with our public health officials as they provide daily briefings in a compassionate and informative manner on the latest COVID-19 developments.
“Dr Bonnie Henry has such a soothing voice. I feel I could listen for hours as she regales me with news of how very much of a global clusterF the world is in,” wrote one Twitter user in a post shared by the “unofficial Bonnie Henry fan club” — ’cause yeah, that’s a thing now.
The daily updates by these officials — the sort of thing only journalists and government superfans usually paid attention to — have become required viewings for many more Canadians these days.
These livestreams have turned the public health officials at the face of it all into the rock stars of the crisis, giving everyone the trustworthy information needed to stay healthy and safe. And even though part of their job is to bear bad news of spikes in cases, for example, or fatalities, they remain level-headed and compassionate — something we all need right now.
“Now is the time to be calm, be kind, and be safe,” Henry said during an update this week.
Henry’s Twitter fan club to date boasts almost 6,500 followers, many who applaud her humanity, calm leadership, and frank distribution of the facts.
The doctor, who served on the front lines in previous fights against the Ebola, H1N1 and SARS viruses, has even inspired a song from devoted fans Vicki Ferguson and Amy Shier.
“Dr. Bonnie, what to say to you? You have nice eyes and we just learned your name when you came into our world you cried, and broke our hearts,” the song goes, referencing the moment when Henry was brought to tears while announcing coronavirus-related deaths in the province.
Nigel Howard, the emotive American Sign Language interpreter often seen alongside Henry at press conferences, has also received a fair share of love.
In Alberta, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw has become a similar bastion of compassion and calm during the crisis. On Thursday, while emphatically encouraging people to practise social distancing, she said, “We are in this together, even if we are far apart.”
Edmonton resident Brendon Brown latched on to the quote and created a T-shirt design featuring Hinshaw’s image with the quote. He’s selling them online, with all proceeds going to support the Calgary Food Bank.
“This T-shirt is about working together in tough times, acknowledging the efforts of our health professionals—like the stellar work of Dr. Hinshaw, and lending support to a local charity,” Brown wrote.
When Hinshaw revealed Monday she was being tested for COVID-19 after exhibiting cold-like symptoms, there was a huge swell of support, as she gave her daily briefing over video conference call from self-isolation at home. On Tuesday, she said that she tested negative for the virus.
She’s also a fashion influencer, it seems. Earlier this week, Hinshaw wore a dress featuring a pattern of the periodic table of elements. The next day, Smoking Lily, the Victoria-based company behind it, revealed demand had skyrocketed so they put the dress back into production — with everyone working separately, of course.
“We decided yesterday morning to re-issue it and we’ve already sold out. It’s crazy,” owner Trish Tacoma told CTV News.
Tacoma said 10 per cent of the proceeds from dress sales would go towards the Mustard Seed food bank in Victoria.
In Toronto, the city’s public health officer Dr. Eileen De Villa has gained notoriety for her collection of scarves, inspiring a Twitter account that documents each unique look.
Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam has been lauded for her sharp blazer game and turns of phrase, like “plank the curve.”
In Quebec, public health officer Dr. Horatio Arruda has inspired a wave of memes and adoring fans, notably for his advice to make Portuguese custard tarts to stave off the boredom of social distancing.
In a press conference Friday, Prince Edward Island’s chief officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison acknowledged how difficult the work is.
“It absolutely can take an impact on me. When we were talking about children here earlier, I found it hard to read because I miss mine,” she said.
“I’m thankful [for the support], and I hope we all together get through these weeks ahead.”
As Canadians look for something to cling to in this time of incredible uncertainty, these public health officials are there, updating us every day and reminding us that we’re in this together — even if we’re far apart.
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