School of Cities series highlights pandemic's impact on cities, urban life

April 28, 2020 by A&S News

Each week in their new series —  Coronavirus and the City: One Question — the School of Cities in the Faculty of Arts & Science asks urban leaders representing academia, government, industry, community and civil society to respond to one key question designed to draw out multiple perspectives. 

Experts have already weighed in on COVID-19's impact on public health and organizations. Still to come in the weeks ahead: Their insights into the virus' impact on mobility, housing, neighbourhoods and inequality.

Read Vivek Goel's — U of T’s vice-president, research and innovation, and strategic initiatives — response to the first question posed in the series.

What have you learned in the last few weeks about the significance of sharing public health information — with the public — as a result of COVID-19? 

OHeadshot of Vivek Goelne of the most important lessons from SARS was the need for clear, consistent and coordinated communication across all levels of government. Since COVID-19 started we have had a much better experience in how governments and public health agencies have communicated advice and daily data. Yet there is clearly room for improvement. We have had days with multiple announcements, sometimes contradictory, from different levels of government. For example, there was different advice for returning travellers to Canada in a single day. The province and Toronto Public Health have also differed on social distancing measures.   

We have also seen some delays and inconsistencies in the release of data on status of cases.  However, this has improved tremendously from the SARS experience and is much better coordinated. In particular, the release by the province of modelling data represents a significant step towards greater transparency. While the models have many assumptions and are complex, they greatly help in understanding the basis for the decisions that have been and will be made.   
Vivek Goel, Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives, Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto