Transcript: COVID-19 Response: Policy and Public Opinion | Jun 23, 2020

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a blue suit and shirt, and a blue checked tie.

A caption on screen reads "COVID-19 response: Policy and public opinion. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says COVID-19 CASES ARE DOWN, AND ONTARIO IS OPENING UP. EVEN THE PROVINCIAL CAPITAL WILL MOVE INTO STAGE 2 THIS WEEK, LEAVING ONLY WINDSOR-ESSEX IN STAGE 1. HOW DOES OUR REOPENING HERE, AND ACROSS CANADA, COMPARE WITH OTHER COUNTRIES? POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR PETER LOEWEN FROM THE U OF T's MUNK SCHOOL OF GLOBAL AFFAIRS AND PUBLIC POLICY IS PART OF A TEAM THAT'S CREATED A WAY TO FIND OUT. IT'S CALLED ReopeningAfterCovid.com, AND PETER LOEWEN JOINS US NOW FROM VIA SKYPE FROM DOWNTOWN OF THE PROVINCIAL CAPITAL TO EXPLAIN...

Peter is in his forties, with short gray hair and a full beard. He's wearing a pale blue shirt.

Steve continues HI, PETER. GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN. HOW ARE YOU MANAGING?

Peter says VERY WELL, THANKS. THANKS FOR HAVING ME ON.

Steve says NOT AT ALL. GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN. FROM A POLICY STANDPOINT, HOW SOUND DO YOU THINK ONTARIO'S LOCKDOWN AND SUBSEQUENT REOPENING STRATEGY HAS GONE?

The caption changes to "Peter Loewen. Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. University of Toronto."

Peter says WELL, I THINK, LOOK... I THINK THERE ARE TWO THINGS TO SAY ABOUT IT. ONE IS IT'S REALLY HARD TO KNOW WHAT WORKS, ACTUALLY, WHEN WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THESE POLICIES. THERE'S A COUPLE OF THINGS THAT ARE COMPLICATED ABOUT IT, RIGHT? ONE IS THAT THERE'S A LAG BETWEEN WHEN YOU OPEN THINGS UP AND PEOPLE START GETTING CLOSE TO ONE ANOTHER AND WHEN THERE ARE SPIKES IN COVID. SO IT'S ACTUALLY HARD TO MEASURE IT. THAT'S ONE THING THAT MAKES IT DIFFICULT. THE SECOND THING THAT MAKES IT DIFFICULT IS THAT, YOU KNOW, WHAT WE'RE DOING HERE IS WE'VE GOT GOVERNMENT SETTING A NUMBER OF RULES ABOUT WHAT CAN BE OPEN AND WHAT CAN BE CLOSED AND WHERE PEOPLE CAN GO AND WHERE THEY CAN'T GO. THOSE RULES ARE SOMETIMES LOOSELY ADHERED TO. SO THE BEHAVIOURAL RESPONSES OF PEOPLE TO THESE RULES ARE HARD FOR POLICYMAKERS TO KNOW WITH CERTAINTY, RIGHT? KIND OF PUTTING ALL THESE PIECES TOGETHER TO FIGURE OUT WHAT'S WORKING IS DIFFICULT. BUT HERE ARE THE KIND OF SUCCESS MEASURES I THINK IN ONTARIO SO FAR. THE GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN ABLE TO COME UP WITH A STRATEGY THAT IS REGIONALLY FOCUSED. THAT'S IMPORTANT. YOU KNOW, MY PARENTS LIVE IN NORTH BAY. SUBSTANTIALLY ZERO CASES OF COVID IN THAT HEALTH REGION. IT'S NOT CLEAR TO ME THAT THEY SHOULD BE UNDER THE SAME DEGREE OF LOCKDOWN THAT TORONTO SHOULD BE UNDER. SO THE PROVINCE HAS FOUND A WAY TO BASICALLY LET DIFFERENT REGIONS OPEN AT DIFFERENT SPEEDS. THAT'S IMPORTANT BECAUSE THE LONGER WE KEEP A LOCKDOWN ON, THE HARDER IT IS FOR PEOPLE TO ADHERE TO IT, ESPECIALLY IF THEY'RE NOT SEEING THE BENEFITS OF IT. SO SUCCESSFUL IN THAT WAY. I'D SAY THE SECOND THING IS THAT SOCIAL DISTANCING IS STARTING TO TAPER OFF. BUT PEOPLE ARE STILL DOING THE COMMON SENSE THINGS THAT THEY NEED TO DO TO TRY TO STOP THE SPREAD OF THE DISEASE. IT WOULD BE BETTER IF THERE WAS MORE MASK WEARING, IT WOULD BE BETTER IF PEOPLE STAYED HOME A LITTLE BIT MORE, BUT WE HAVEN'T SEEN A COMPLETE ABANDONING OF SOCIAL DISTANCING.

Steve says YOU AND I BOTH KNOW THERE'S ALWAYS BEEN MORE ART THAN SCIENCE IN POLITICS. FOR EXAMPLE, SHOULD WE HAVE HAD MORE TESTING ABOUT OF WE REOPENED OF MUCH OF THE PROVINCE, SHOULD WE HAVE BETTER CONTACT TRACING RESOURCES IN PLACE BEFORE REOPENING? SHOULD THERE HAVE BEEN STRICTER QUARANTINING BEFORE REOPENING? IS HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER ALL OF THAT?

The caption changes to "Peter Loewen, @PeejLoewen."

Peter says YEAH. SO THERE ARE THREE THINGS THERE, RIGHT? ONE IS... THE LAST ONE WAS CONTACT TRACING... SORRY, QUARANTINING, CONTACT TRACING, AND THEN TESTING.

Steve says YEAH.

Peter says I THINK WE WERE FRANKLY A BIT SLOW OFF THE MARK ON TESTING. IT TOOK US A WHILE TO GET IT WHERE IT SHOULD BE AT. WE HAVE DAILY RATES OF TESTING THAT ARE HIGHER NOW. LOOK, I THINK THERE ARE BIG QUESTIONS TO BE ASKED AT THE LEVEL OF REGULATION AND AT THE LEVEL FOR APPROVAL TESTING FOR WHY WE DON'T HAVE MORE TECHNOLOGIES THAT ALLOW PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND THE CURRENT STATE OF THEIR HEALTH VIS-A-VIS COVID BUT MORE GENERALLY VIS-A-VIS COVID. ON CONTACT TRACING I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO WORK WITH SENATORS THAT WERE WORKING ON THIS QUESTION ABOUT A MONTH AGO NOW. THE BASIC STORY WAS ONCE YOU EXPLAIN TO CANADIANS THE IDEA OF PROXIMITY TRACING, YOU EXPLAIN TO THEM THE BENEFITS OF IT AND KIND OF WHAT THE TRADE-OFFS ARE BETWEEN WHY WE NEED IT AND WHAT YOU HAVE TO GIVE UP TO HAVE CONTACT TRACING, THERE IS SUPPORT FOR IT. I THINK THIS HAS BEEN THE ONE AREA WHERE POLITICAL LEADERSHIP HAS BEEN MOST LACKING, YOU KNOW, IF I WERE THE GOVERNMENT I WOULD OFFER TO PAY EVERYONE'S CELL PHONE BILLS IF THEY DOWNLOADED A PROXIMITY APP THAT HAD CENTRALIZED TRACING AND WE COULD KNOW MUCH MORE ACCURATELY WHETHER PEOPLE HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO COVID THAN WE ARE NOW AND CERTAINLY MUCH, MUCH MORE RAPIDLY. BY AN ORDER OF MAGNITUDE. FINALLY ON QUARANTINING, WE HAVE TO DO A PROPER RETROSPECTIVE OF WHAT'S GONE ON. POLITICIANS HAVE BEEN IN A VERY DIFFICULT POSITION IN TRYING TO FIGHT THIS THING. THIS IS AN INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT THING TO DEAL WITH AS POLITICIANS. BUT IF THE NUMBERS ARE TRUE, YOU KNOW, SOMETHING LIKE A MILLION CANADIANS IN THE FIRST 6 WEEKS OF THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN UNDER QUARANTINE AT SOME POINT AND THE NUMBER... FOR EXAMPLE, OF RCMP CHECKS ON HOUSES TO SEE IF THEY WERE ABIDING BY QUARANTINES WAS LESS THAN 5,000. WE HAD PEOPLE COMING OVER THE BORDER THREE, FOUR WEEKS INTO THIS PANDEMIC AND WE WEREN'T RIGOROUSLY ENSURING THAT THEY WERE GOING TO BE QUARANTINING AT HOME AND FINDING A WAY TO REALLY FOLLOW UP ON THAT. WE FELL DOWN THERE. AND THE RESULT OF THAT IS THAT MORE PEOPLE DIED THAN NEEDED TO DIE.

Steve says WE HAVE DIVIDED THIS PROVINCE UP INTO NOT QUITE THREE DOZEN PUBLIC HEALTH REGIONS, AND ALL OF THEM ARE OPEN NOW INTO STAGE TWO AT LEAST EXCEPT FOR WINDSOR ESSEX. I WONDER IF YOU COULD COMPARE WHERE WE ARE IN OUR REOPENING OF SOCIETY TO, SAY, OTHER JURISDICTIONS AROUND THE WORLD THAT YOU'VE LOOKED AT?

The caption changes to "For more information: reopeningaftercovid.com."

Peter says SURE, SURE. SO WE'RE IN A POSITION WHERE, YOU KNOW, WE KIND OF LOOK LIKE THE AVERAGE AROUND THE WORLD. IF I WANTED TO COMPARE US, FOR EXAMPLE, TO MICHIGAN, RIGHT, WHICH IS A STATE THAT LOOKS A LOT LIKE OURS. PEOPLE CAN DO THIS ON OUR DASHBOARD. WE DIVIDE UP ECONOMIES INTO NINE DIFFERENT SECTORS WHERE THERE ARE DIFFERENT SETS OF REOPENING RULES AND THEN WE LOOK AT EVERY OECD COUNTRY, FIVE PROVINCES, FIVE STATES, IT WILL BE EVERY PROVINCE BY THE END OF THIS WEEK. YOU CAN SEE WHERE YOUR PROVINCE IS COMPARED TO OTHER JURISDICTIONS. IF WE COMPARE US TO MICHIGAN, FOR EXAMPLE, WE'RE MORE RESTRICTIVE ABOUT GATHERINGS, WE'RE MORE RESTRICTIVE ABOUT BORDER MOVEMENTS, AND WE'RE A LITTLE STRICTER ABOUT QUARANTINES AND PEOPLE COMING IN, ONCE THEY'VE COME INTO THE PROVINCE FROM OUTSIDE THE COUNTRY. WE'RE BOTH COMPARABLY HIGH ON MANUFACTURING AND CONSTRUCTION. MICHIGAN AND ONTARIO WOULD BE IN GLOBAL TERMS PRETTY HIGH IN TERM OF OUR OPENNESS OF WHAT WE'RE ALLOWING IN TERMS OF MANUFACTURING RIGHT NOW. WE'RE THE SAME ACROSS EVERYTHING EXCEPT WE ARE MORE STRICT ON SCHOOLING. IT MEANS OVERALL WE'RE LOWER THAN MICHIGAN. ONTARIO SITS ABOUT IN THE MIDDLE. WE'RE IN THE SAME DYNAMIC AS MOST OTHER PLACES IN THAT WE'RE OPENING UP NOW AT A KIND OF SIMILAR PACE TO OTHER PLACES ARE OPENING UP. WE WERE CLOSED DOWN FOR, YOU KNOW, LONGER THAN SOME AMERICAN STATES. CERTAINLY WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE AMERICAN STATES WHICH ARE HAVING EXPLOSIONS NOW IN COVID AGAIN, WE ARE MUCH MORE LOCKED DOWN THAN THEM AND YOU CAN FIGURE OUT WHETHER THIS WAS GOOD POLICY OR NOT IF YOU LOOK AT THOSE PLACES.

Steve says HOW ABOUT COMPARED TO OTHER PROVINCES, HOW ARE WE DOING THERE?

Peter says WE'RE DOING OKAY. IT'S BASICALLY... IT'S A BIT OF A MIX. IF I LOOK AT BRITISH COLUMBIAN, WHICH HAS BEEN A PRETTY SUCCESSFUL CASE, NEW BRUNSWICK HAS BEEN A MORE SUCCESSFUL ONE, WE'RE ACTUALLY THE SAME ON AVERAGE, KIND OF OVERALL WHERE WE ARE. WE'RE MORE OPEN ON CONSTRUCTION. THEY'RE MORE OPEN ON RESTAURANTS. SO THERE'S A MIXED BAG IN TERMS OF WHERE WE'RE MORE OPEN AND LESS OPEN. OVERALL WE LOOK TO BE ABOUT THE SAME AS BRITISH COLUMBIA. THIS IS THE INTERESTING THING ABOUT CANADA, RIGHT, IS THERE HASN'T BEEN REALLY SUBSTANTIAL VARIATION IN... THERE IS NUANCED VARIATION BUT THERE HASN'T BEEN REALLY SUBSTANTIAL VARIATION ACROSS MOST MEASURES ACROSS MOST PROVINCES. THE AREAS WHERE IT'S NOTABLE HAS BEEN RESTRICTIONS ON MOVEMENT. NEW BRUNSWICK IS A VERY HARD PROVINCE TO GET INTO RIGHT NOW, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND IS A VERY HARD PROVINCE TO GET INTO. ONTARIO HAS NOT HAD THOSE RESTRICTIONS. FOR EXAMPLE, THEY WOULD BE HARD TO ENFORCE WITHIN THE PROVINCE BECAUSE IT'S HUGE, BUT WE'VE NOT EVEN HAD THEM AT OUR BORDERS. HOW STRICTLY QUARANTINES HAVE BEEN OBSERVED AND HAVE BEEN ENFORCED IS ANOTHER MATTER. MY IMPRESSION IS THE QUARANTINES WERE MORE STRICTLY OBSERVED AND MORE STRICTLY SOCIALLY SANCTIONED, FRANKLY, IN NEW BRUNSWICK, FOR EXAMPLE, THAN THEY WERE IN ONTARIO. BUT FOR THE MOST PART, THERE'S NOT A LOT OF VARIATION IN CANADA IN TERMS OF DEATHS WITH COVID. SO MANY IN QUEBEC. ALMOST NONE IN NEW BRUNSWICK. NONE IN P.E.I. LESS IN ONTARIO. B.C. IS DOING BETTER. SO THERE'S BEEN ALL THAT VARIATION BUT THERE HASN'T BEEN ACTUALLY ALL THAT MUCH POLICY VARIATION, WHICH IS AN INTERESTING QUESTION FOR US GOING INTO A SECOND WAVE.

Steve says I WANT TO ASK... I GUESS THIS NEXT QUESTION REQUIRES MORE OF A POLITICAL JUDGMENT AS OPPOSED TO JUST FOLLOWING THE HARD DATA, AND THAT IS, YOU KNOW, THE GREAT FEAR FOR POLITICIANS IS AS WE REOPEN RIGHT NOW, THAT CASES WILL SPIKE UP AND THAT THEY WILL THEN HAVE TO RETRENCH AND CLOSE US DOWN A BIT MORE AND THAT REALLY DOES GET INTO SOME DIFFICULT, TRICKY POLITICAL TERRITORY. HOW DO YOU SEE THE POTENTIAL OF ALL THAT UNFOLDING?

Peter says I THINK IT'S VERY, VERY DIFFICULT. I MEAN, I DON'T KNOW THAT WE'VE LEARNED ANY LESSONS RIGHT NOW THAT HAVE GOT US PREPARED FOR THE FALL WHEN WE'RE GOING TO BE OPENING AGAIN. I THINK THAT'S A MAJOR CONSTRAINT, STEVE. I'LL TELL YOU WHAT MY INTUITIONS ARE. WE WILL HAVE DATA TO BACK THIS UP SOONER THAN LATER. BUT MY INTUITIONS ARE THAT POLITICIANS ARE VERY... RIGHTFULLY, YOU WOULD BE IN THEIR POSITION, THEY ARE VERY CONCERNED ABOUT DEATHS, THEY'RE VERY CONCERNED ABOUT TRYING TO REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF MORTALITY AROUND COVID, AND THEY ARE MORE LIKELY TO WEIGHT UP DEATHS WHEN THEY'RE THINKING ABOUT THE TRADE-OFFS THAN IMPINGING THE RIGHT ON CITIZENS TO MOVE AROUND, TO SEE FAMILY, ET CETERA, ET CETERA. CITIZENS ARE LESS CONCERNED ABOUT THAT. YOU CAN UNDERSTAND WHY. THEY DON'T HAVE TO FACE THE VOTERS AND THEY CAN BE MORE MYOPIC ABOUT THESE THINGS. THE DIFFICULT POSITION WE'RE IN RIGHT NOW KIND OF FROM THE POLITICS OF IT BUT ALSO FROM THE POLICY OF IT IS THAT WE'VE WRESTLED COVID TO THE GROUND IN ONTARIO. WE'RE WRESTLING IT TO THE GROUND IN QUEBEC. IT'S BEEN WRESTLED DOWN IN B.C. BUT IN ONTARIO WE HAVEN'T COMPLETELY STAMPED IT OUT. WE'RE NOT IN THE POSITION OF NEW ZEALAND NOW WHERE THERE'S NO NEW CASES. YEAR'S TICKING ALONG AT 150, 200 A DAY IN TORONTO, AND WE JUST CAN'T... WE CAN'T SHUT THOSE DOWN. SO WHAT CHOICES POLITICIANS MAKE WHEN THE DISEASE IS THERE AND IT'S RUNNING, RIGHT, THE INFECTIONS ARE RUNNING AT A RELATIVELY LOW LEVEL BUT THEY'RE STILL THERE AND THEY'RE AT A HIGH ENOUGH LEVEL THAT THEY COULD EXPLODE IF ALL THE KIND OF SHACKLES ARE TAKEN OFF. THAT'S A REALLY DIFFICULT POSITION TO BE IN BECAUSE YOU CAN'T SIMPLY SAY, WELL, 200 INFECTIONS A DAY IS OKAY. WE CAN HANDLE IT FROM AN ICU PERSPECTIVE, THEREFORE WE'RE GOOD TO GO AND WE'RE GOING TO OPEN THINGS UP. THEY NEED TO KEEP ON ENCOURAGING PEOPLE TO PERSIST IN PRACTISING SOCIAL DISTANCING AND BE SAFE ABOUT THE GROUPS AND DOING SIMPLE THINGS AROUND HAND WASHING. THEY PROBABLY NEED TO PUSH ON MASKS A BIT MORE. THEY NEED TO FIGURE OUT HOW THEY CAN DO THOSE THINGS AND GET TO THE FALL WHEN WE REOPEN SCHOOLS. THAT MUST BE THE TOUGHEST PART OF THIS BECAUSE REOPENING SCHOOLS, WITH PEOPLE GOING BACK BACK TO WORK AND THEN IT'S A WHOLE DIFFERENT BALLGAME.

Steve says TALK TO US ABOUT MASKS FOR A SECOND. THEY'RE PRESUMABLY HAS BEEN A DEBATE AT THE CABINET TABLE, VIRTUALLY I SHOULD SAY, AS TO WHETHER OR NOT THEY OUGHT TO BRING IN SOME KIND OF LAW OR REGULATION REQUIRING PEOPLE TO WEAR MASKS WHENEVER THEY'RE INDOORS, REGARDLESS. WE KNOW, OF COURSE, THE TORONTO TRANSIT COMMISSION HAS NOW PUT FORWARD, OR IS ABOUT TO PUT FORWARD, A REGULATION STARTING IN JULY WHERE YOU MUST WEAR A MASK IF YOU RIDE THE TTC UNLESS YOU'RE UNDER THE AGE OF TWO OR YOU'VE GOT A SEVERE HEALTH PROBLEM. WHAT KIND OF APPETITE AMONG THE POPULATION DO YOU THINK THERE IS FOR THAT?

Peter says I THINK THIS IS A VERY DIFFICULT ISSUE. THERE'S TWO PARTS TO THIS ISSUE. THE ONE IS JUST ON THE PURE EVIDENCE OF IT. SHOULD WE BE WEARING MASKS? I THINK THERE ARE SCIENTIFIC STANDARDS OF EVIDENCE THAT ARE VERY IMPORTANT. I THINK THE BALANCE OF EVIDENCE, NOW, SCIENTIFICALLY, IS MASK WEARING HELPS YOU PREVENT SPREADING THE DISEASE WHEN YOU HAVE IT AND YOU'RE ASYMPTOMATIC OR YOU'RE PRESYMPTOMATIC AND WE SHOULD BE DOING THAT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. THE LIKELIHOOD THAT A PERSON CONTRACTS THE DISEASE IF THEY'RE WEARING A MASK AND SOMEONE ELSE IS WEARING A MASK IS VERY LOW. SO I THINK THE PUBLIC HEALTH RECOMMENDATION HERE IS PRETTY CLEAR: IF YOU'RE OUT IN PUBLIC, YOU SHOULD BE WEARING A MASK. IT'S REALLY UNCOMFORTABLE WHEN IT'S 30 DEGREES OUT AND WE'RE NOT USED TO DOING IT. AND LOOK, CULTURALLY, WE'RE NOT ADAPTED TO IT SO THERE'S THAT ISSUE BUT THAT'S GOING TO BE THE ONE THING THAT CAN HELP US REALLY CRANK DOWN THOSE NUMBERS AND WRESTLE THEM TO THE GROUND FARTHER. SO I THINK AT SOME POINT POLITICIANS ARE JUST GOING TO HAVE TO ACCEPT THAT THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE TO FORCE THAT PRACTICE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. WE SHOULD HAVE A BIG RETROSPECTIVE ON THIS AND WE WANT TO BE EVEN-HANDED AND FAIR TO POLITICIANS WHO ARE IN A DIFFICULT POSITION. BUT I THINK IT'S PRETTY CLEAR THAT EARLY ON IN THIS PANDEMIC, WE WERE TALKING PAST EACH OTHER ABOUT WHAT THE SCIENTIFIC DATA WAS ON THE EFFICACY OF MASKS. I THINK THERE PROBABLY WAS A POLITICAL CONCERN ABOUT THERE BEING A RUN ON MASKS IN THE COUNTRY AND SO OUR PUBLIC HEALTH AGENCIES DIDN'T RECOMMEND MASK WEARING AND THEY SHOULD HAVE RECOMMENDED IT TWO WEEKS EARLIER.

Steve says COULD YOU GET US INTO THE HEAD OF POLICYMAKERS AS WELL INASMUCH AS THEY'RE TRYING TO MAKE DECISIONS BASED ON THE MOST UP-TO-DATE INFORMATION THAT THEY HAVE BUT SOMETIMES THERE IS A LAG BETWEEN REPORTING TIME, BETWEEN THE MOST UP-TO-DATE INFORMATION AND THE TIME AT WHICH THEY HAVE TO MAKE A CALL. HOW DIFFICULT IS THAT FOR THEM?

Peter says OH, I THINK THIS IS REMARKABLY DIFFICULT. LOOK, HUMAN COGNITION IS SUCH THAT WE'RE JUST BAD AT MAKING CONNECTIONS BETWEEN A CAUSE AND SOME EFFECT WHEN THERE'S ANY DELAY BETWEEN THE CAUSE AND THE EFFECT. AND THIS IS A DISEASE WHICH HAS THESE SOCIAL DYNAMICS, IT'S A VIRUS THAT HAS SOCIAL DYNAMICS IN HOW IT SPREADS AND WE DON'T KNOW HOW TO CONTROL THOSE BEHAVIOURAL THINGS THAT CAUSE THE DISEASE TO SPREAD MORE OR LESS. AND WE HAVE A HARD TIME KIND OF SEEING CAUSE AND EFFECT BETWEEN A CLOSING OR OPENING POLICY BECAUSE (a) WE DON'T KNOW AS MUCH AS WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HOW THE DISEASE TRANSMITS BUT THERE'S ALL THOSE THINGS THAT HAPPENS BETWEEN WHEN A POLICY IS PUT IN PLACE AND WHEN YOU CAN SEE THE NUMBERS THAT MAY BE THE RESULT OF THAT POLICY. AN ANECDOTAL EXAMPLE IS THERE WAS A CONCERN AFTER ALL THOSE YOUNG PEOPLE GOT TOGETHER IN TRINITY BELLWOODS PARK THAT THERE WOULD BE A SPIKE IN CASES. NOT A HUGE AMOUNT OF EVIDENCE THAT THAT HAPPENED AS A RESULT OF THAT. NOT A HUGE AMOUNT OF EVIDENCE THAT CORONA IS SPREADING BECAUSE OF THE MASS GATHERINGS IN THE UNITED STATES. WE SHOULD BE AS EVEN-HANDED AS POSSIBLE IN GETTING THOSE DATA. BUT THE POINT IS WE DON'T KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT HOW THE DISEASE ACTUALLY TRANSMITS TO BE ABLE TO MAKE PRECISE RECOMMENDATIONS ABOUT HOW THE VIRUS TRANSMITS TO MAKE PRECISE RECOMMENDATIONS ABOUT WHAT MIX OF POLICIES ARE PERFECT. SO WHAT YOU HAVE THEN ARE POLITICIANS WHO ARE ENGAGING IN A LOT OF RISK AVERSE BEHAVIOUR, RIGHT, WHERE THEY'RE SAYING, LET'S KEEP THINGS LOCKED DOWN A LITTLE BIT LONGER AND WE'LL WRITE THE CHEQUES. LET'S KEEP THINGS LOCKED DOWN TIGHTER BECAUSE WE JUST DON'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING TO WORK BUT THIS BIG MIX OF LOCKING EVERYTHING DOWN SEEMS TO WORK.

Steve says WE DO KNOW THERE IS SOME FATIGUE WITH ALL THE PROTOCOLS IN PLACE. WE HAVE A CHART AND I'LL DESCRIBE IT A LITTLE BIT MORE THOSE LISTENING ON PODCAST.

A slate appears on screen, with the title "Aggregate measure of participation in social distancing by region."

A line chart shows gradual decrease in social distancing after April 30 all over Canada, with a small recent uptick in Ontario.

Steve reads data from the slate and says
IF YOU START AT THE LEFT OF THIS CHART, YOU SEE THERE IS PRETTY GOOD ADHERENCE TO THE NOTION OF SOCIAL OR PHYSICAL DISTANCING, ABOUT THREE-QUARTERS OF THE PEOPLE, AND IT REALLY DOESN'T MATTER WHAT PART OF THE COUNTRY YOU'RE IN, IT'S PRETTY HIGH ADHERENCE TO THESE PROTOCOLS. BUT AS THE MONTHS GO ON, AND FOLLOW THE SQUIGGLY LINES TO THE RIGHT OF THE CHART, AND YOU CAN SEE, AND AGAIN FOR THOSE WHO CAN'T SEE, I'LL DESCRIBE IT, THERE IS LESS ADHERENCE AS YOU GO ALONG TO THE POINT WHERE BY THE MIDDLE OF JUNE, YOU'VE GOT, YOU KNOW, YOU'VE GOT A GOOD 5, 10, 15 PERCENT OF PEOPLE STARTING TO DECLINE TO FOLLOW THE MEASURES OF SOCIAL DISTANCING. HOW DO THE POLITICIANS CONTINUE TO GET PEOPLE TO TRY TO BUY INTO A POLICY THAT THEY LOOK LIKE THEY ARE FATIGUING FROM?

Peter says YEAH, THIS IS A VERY DIFFICULT ONE. LET ME JUST SAY TWO THINGS ABOUT IT QUICKLY. THE WAY WE MEASURE SOCIAL DISTANCING IN THIS CASE IS WE ASK PEOPLE WHAT PERCENTAGE OF THE FOLLOWING SIX THINGS THEY'VE DONE... THESE ARE EASY THINGS, EH. AVOID CROWDED PLACE, I VOID CLOSE CONTACT, MAINTAIN TWO METRES DISTANCE, AVOID THE GROCERY STORE AT PEAK TIMES, NOT OVERLY DIFFICULT THINGS TO DO, THOUGH ACTUALLY HARD TO MAINTAIN FOR A LONG TIME AND DO ON A WEEK OVER WEEK BASIS. AND THE STORY IS THAT PEOPLE WERE DOING THREE QUARTERS WERE SAYING AT THE START OF THIS AND NOW THEY'RE DOING ABOUT TWO THIRDS OF THOSE THINGS OR 60 percent OF THOSE THINGS. THE DECLINES ARE MOST PRONOUNCED AMONG PEOPLE THAT ARE YOUNGER, MORE PRONOUNCED AMONG MEN BUT AMONG PEOPLE WHO ARE YOUNGER WHO FEEL A LITTLE BIT MORE INVINCIBLE. OUR DATA IS THE FOLLOWING, THAT WHEN PEOPLE ARE EXPOSED TO THE ECONOMIC COSTS OF SOCIAL DISTANCING AND OF A LOCKDOWN, WHEN THEY'RE TOLD ABOUT WHAT THE FUTURE COSTS ARE LIKELY TO BE OR, FOR EXAMPLE, WHEN A BIG REPORT COMES OUT LIKE THE APRIL JOBS REPORT WHICH SHOWS JUST HOW SEVERE THE COSTS OF THIS LOCKDOWN ON THE ECONOMY, THEY EXPECT MORE PEOPLE ARE GOING TO DEFECT FROM SOCIAL DISTANCING IN THE FUTURE SO THEY THINK THEY THEMSELVES ARE GOING TO DEFECT FROM IT. WE HAVE A COORDINATION THING WHERE EVERYBODY IS IN THIS TOGETHER. THEY UNDERSTAND SOCIAL DISTANCING IS GOOD FOR THEM AND OTHER PEOPLE. PEOPLE ARE LOOKING DOWN THE PIPE AND SAY THIS THING IS GOING TO BE COSTLY TO KEEP DOING. I DON'T KNOW IF I'M GOING TO DO IT FOREVER. WE'RE AT A POINT WHERE PEOPLE START COMPROMISING ON THESE THINGS, THEY START GOING TO STORES MORE AND THEY SEE FRIENDS AND FAMILY AND GRANDPARENTS BECAUSE THEY MISS THEM. THEY START GOING TO PUBLIC PLACES MORE. [indiscernible] TO KEEP COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION DOWN. AND FINALLY, THE PEOPLE WHO ARE LEAST WILLING TO KEEP ABIDING BY THIS, AND POLITICIANS KNOW THIS, ARE YOUNG PEOPLE. THOSE 18 TO 34 AND THOSE WHO LIVE OUTSIDE OF CITIES. BOY, WHY AM I ENGAGING IN SOCIAL DISTANCING WHEN THE VIRUS IS IN TORONTO AND IT'S NOT IN SUDBURY OR TIMMINS OR SOME OTHER PLACE THAT'S BEEN ABLE TO WRESTLE IT DOWN TO THE GROUND. LONG STORY SHORT HERE, STEVE, IS THE CHALLENGE FOR POLICYMAKERS IS IT BECOMES MORE AND MORE COSTLY FOR PEOPLE TO KEEP UP THIS SOCIAL DISTANCING SO THEY'VE GOT TO CONVINCE THEM IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. IF THEY'RE NOT GOING TO DO IT, THERE HAS TO BE AN ALTERNATIVE LIKE MASKING.

The caption changes to "Producer: Patricia Kozicka, @TrishKozicka."

Steve says PETER LOEWEN, PROFESSOR, MUNK SCHOOL OF GLOBAL AFFAIRS AND PUBLIC POLICY AT THE U OF T, ALWAYS GOOD OF YOU TO JOIN US HERE ON TVO. THANKS SO MUCH AND BE SAFE.

Peter says THANKS VERY MUCH, STEVE. YOU TOO.

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