The early months of the COVID-19 pandemic were difficult to navigate for many segments of the population and were especially stressful for those in the health care field.
For Dr. Jim Chirico, leading the citizens of the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit into the unknown was always at the forefront but, from the onset, there was a disconnect between the message and the messenger — and the target of that message — in the flow of information.
"That's one of the places where I erred, where I should have done it a lot sooner," said Chirico, Thursday. "There are lots of questions that people have and the questions [the media] has every week are excellent, very thought-provoking and really does reflect what the public is asking."
One cannot spell "medical" without "media," a lesson learned and duly noted by the Medical Officer of Health, fittingly, during Thursday's weekly Health Unit press conference.
Asked if he would have done anything differently in his approach to the pandemic, after giving the question some thought Chirico replied, "One of the things — and maybe there are more — I would do differently is I would've gotten out in front of the press more readily, earlier on, doing exactly what we're doing every week now."
The communications team at the Health Unit was quickly becoming overworked and under-rested. Dealing with the media can be taxing and can tie up resources under the best of circumstances. During the most serious health crisis of our lifetimes, it was near impossible to keep up with the requests for information.
Something had to give. Dr. Chirico has been delivering prepared remarks over a live feed that often raised even more questions. Instead of dealing with media requests from multiple outlets throughout the week, the Health Unit had a communications epiphany and, in March, began holding weekly media availability sessions.
Even if one didn't agree with the decisions being made, no one can deny the Health Unit had turned the page in offering more transparent communications by making a rotating panel of experts available and by providing topical remarks each week, followed by an attempt to answer every question thrown at them.
Watch Dr. Chirico's response in full below: